All posts by Taghred Chandab

In May 2008, Taghred Chandab packed her bags and her young family to go on an adventure of a lifetime. She landed in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 32-weeks pregnant with her third child, on a humid summer’s day, the desert temperature hovering above 40-degrees. The award-winning author and journalist placed a two-year deadline on the Middle Eastern journey, five years later she is still there, living on one of the world’s most luxurious man-made islands, Palm Jumeriah, in Dubai. Born and raised in Sydney, Taghred Chandab spent over 12 years working as a journalist for both News Ltd and Fairfax Media publications, was a producer at 2UE and dabbled in a little public relations, managing the media affairs of a football club and its squad of 32-egos. In 2005, she co-wrote her first book, The Glory Garage: Growing Up Lebanese Muslim in Australia, a collection of stories about Muslims living in Australia. The book was short listed for several awards, including the 2006 NSW Premier’s Award, and received the 2006 Children’s Book Council of Australia Honour Award. Seven years have passed, and while it seems like a life-time in the publishing world, for Taghred the absence from the spotlight has given her the chance to raise her three girls, Janah (8), Serene (6.5) and Alisar (5), and reacquaint herself with her Middle Eastern roots and faith. Taghred also took a break from reporting on Islamic affairs, opting to pursue her sports and entertainment dream in the Middle East. She teamed up with Tracey Holmes to co-host Sports Talk on Dubai Eye, an affiliate of the Arabian Radio Network, as well as covering some of the biggest sporting events in the region from the 2009 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup to the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup. She released her second book title & her debut children's book, The Perfect Flower Girl in June 2012. She now heads the PR & Communications team working on Disney Live! & Disney On Ice events in the Middle East.

COMPETITION: Goldilocks & The Three Bears

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Jenny Hackwell as Goldilocks

In collaboration with Art for Life UAE, I am giving you the chance to WIN 4 tickets to see the Northern Ballet bring one of my all-time favourite children’s stories, Goldilocks and the Three Bears to life at the Madinat Jumeriah Theatre. These tickets are for Saturday, November 25 at 2pm.

What do you need to do?

On Instagram follow @artforlifeuae, @arabianmum, hit the follow button on this blog, and tag three friends.

Terms & Conditions

  1. The tickets are for Saturday, November 25 at 2pm and cannot be exchanged
  2. Competition closes on Sunday, October 15 at 6pm and the winner will be announced on Monday, October 16.
  3. To be eligible you must follow all the steps
  4. Only one entry per applicant
  5. UAE Residents Only

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All you need to know about Goldilocks & The Three Bears

Dubai

When: November 24 and 25

Location: Madinat Theatre

 Abu Dhabi

When: November 27

Location: National Theatre

 As part of the UK/UAE 2017 Year of Creative Collaboration led by the British Council, Art For All is delighted to announce that in November they will be bringing much-loved children’s ballet, Goldilocks & The Three Bears, to the UAE. Performed by the Northern Ballet, this beautiful production is a wonderful way to introduce little ones to the magic of live ballet, music and theatre.

At the centre of the story is Goldilocks – a mischievous little girl with hair as bright as gold. On the look out for an adventure she sneaks out of her house one day and finds her way into the woods. A chance encounter with Blue Bird and Fox leads her into a game of hide and seek, which in turn finds her stumbling across the Bear’s woodland cottage. Nobody is home, but she finds three bowls of delicious porridge in the kitchen. Perhaps just a little taste… But what will Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Little Bear say when they return home? You’ll have to wait and see…

Join us for this captivating children’s ballet, performed with little people in mind.

Suitable for ages 2+

Running time: 40 minutes (approx.)

 Details : Public rate in Dubai: Dhs125 to Dhs175 – Public rate in Abu Dhabi: Dhs110-Dhs185

Tickets are available from Madinat Theatre Box Office, Virgin Tickets

 

 

 

 

 

LETTING GO : Getting ready for nursery

 

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Art Village Nursery Open Day

This would be the hardest decision I would have to make.

My baby girl wrapped her arms around my neck as we walked in to our first nursery open day. I thought it was going to be as easy as it had been for my other children, but Amalia just held on. The teachers at Art Village Nursery invited Amalia to take a seat next to them and paint, but she wasn’t interested. I knew she would take time to warm up. Even my older daughters, aged 12, 11 and nine, now all sitting around the table and painting masks, were unsuccessful in encouraging Amalia to take part in all the wonderful activities on offer.

And then it dawned on me: how was I going to let go? I had quite forgotten about the challenges I now faced in sending a child off to nursery for the first time.

Deciding whether to keep Amalia home for another year or send her to a nursery was playing on my mind. Following our recent visit home to Australia, I realised how much she enjoyed spending time with children her own age. Although she plays regularly with her sisters, it’s not the same. Watching her learn to share toys was fascinating. In the beginning she screamed and struggled with her cousins, but as the days and weeks passed Amalia learned to share.

Now, more than ever, nursery is becoming more of a necessity for her development.

It has been seven years since I had a child in nursery and I feel as if I am back at square one, searching and investigating all the possibilities before I make a final decision.

In 2008, when I moved to the United Arab Emirates, 32 weeks pregnant with my third child, Abu Dhabi was a developing city, and unlike Dubai, nurseries were scarce and fees were high. Every door I knocked on was quickly closed. “Sorry, we’re full,” was the common response. These nurseries were plush; nothing was comparable to what was on offer back home in Sydney, Australia.

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Janah & Serene ready for nursery in Abu Dhabi

Eventually I did find something: a Montessori nursery close to where we settled. Then came the shock. Janah, now 12, had to sit for an interview with the nursery director, who was very selective of whom she would take in. As a mother, I felt intimidated and nervous. What if my child wasn’t good enough?

Thankfully, Janah met all the requirements; however, I was surprised that a nursery could be so selective of such young children. The director said she didn’t want any “disruptive” children, and in a split second my eyes shot across to my second child, Serene, who was becoming rowdy and restless as her baby sister slept behind her in the pram.

So much has changed. Although the selection of nurseries is now wider and the choices better, letting go of Amalia is the real challenge. While she was very apprehensive in the beginning, she began to settle down and enjoy what was on offer at Art Village Nursery. It’s important that the children also visit the nursery during open day, to see how they interact with teachers.

The nursery boasts 11 rooms including a library, atelier (Art & Design room), dining room and Dance & Movement room. In the outdoor area there are the all-important sand area, slide area, and gardening area. For safety reasons the nursery does not have a swimming pool but it does offer lots of water activities.

Once I knew Amalia was settled, it was my cue to catch up with Nina Farokhfal, the managing director, to learn more about this award-winning nursery.

She reassured me that all parents have the option of staying with their child on their first day, until he or she had settled in. I don’t recall this being an option at any other nursery I had visited over the years. If possible, it’s certainly an option every parent should take up, as there is nothing more frightening for a child than to be dropped off at a strange place with no familiar faces around.

Ms Farokhfal recalled being traumatised as a child when her parents dropped her off at a nursery in Germany, shortly after immigrating from Iran and unable to speak the language.

Located in Jumeriah 2, the Art Village Nursery is a branch of the award-winning Amadeus Preschool in Stockholm, Sweden. It is a Reggio Emilia inspired nursery, which values the child as strong, capable and resilient; rich with wonder and knowledge.

“When a parent is searching for a nursery they should look for one that meets their needs,” Ms Farokhfal said.

At Art Village Nursery, she added, children take part in the four areas of learning: Song & Music, Dance & Movement, Theatre & Drama, and Art & Design. They explore each area throughout their day, making learning fun and engaging while at the same time developing their educational, emotional, social and creative capabilities.

Throughout my chat with Ms Farokhfal, Amalia was nowhere to be seen. There were no more tears, just laughter as I walked in on her and her older sister playing in the toddlers’ room. The experience was a little more difficult on me than on her, as it simply confirmed that my baby girl was ready for nursery. It was also a reminder that it takes a child time to settle in to a new environment.

Art Village Nursery will certainly be on my shortlist when we decide next year where to send Amalia to nursery.

 

Art Village Nursery accepts children from 1 to 4 years. The nursery is also affiliated with Hartland International School and Clarion School. Registration for the 2017 – 2018 academic school year are open. For more details please call +971 4 288 6502 or email info@artvillagenursery.com. You can also visit www.artvillagenursery.com

[Disclaimer: This story is sponsored by Art Village Nursery]

 

 

 

 

FACING YOUR FEARS

Encouraging Adults to Learn to Swim

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Adult learn to swim students

In March, I faced one of my greatest fears head on. I embarked on a challenge to learn to swim. I’ve spoken about it previously on my blog but what I haven’t done is share the reasons why I never learned to swim as a child and why now, at 40, I have tackled it, along the way inspiring other adults to step out of their comfort zone and overcome their fear of swimming pools.

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Absolute Swimming Academy UAE with young men who can’t swim

I grew up with my very conservative Muslim father, so when he told me as a child that I would no longer be allowed to wear a swimsuit, I found ways to avoid school swimming lessons. I was eight and embarrassed at having to jump in the water with my classmates in shorts and a T-shirt; during the 80s we didn’t have the luxury of rash tops or knee-length swimsuits like the one I wear today.

The decision I made to sit out swimming lessons led to an incident that caused me to fear swimming pools for most of my life. I recall being at a school swim gala when the teachers gathered the non-swimmers together for water games. After jumping in the water and watching my friends swim comfortably across the pool, I found myself sinking and gasping for air. I was extremely fortunate that a man saw me and dived in to save me. Until recently, whenever I couldn’t touch the bottom of the pool, my heart would race and I found myself scrambling back to the shallow end.

For 25 years, I have made excuses to avoid getting in the water and learning to swim. As the mother of four girls, I made sure that my eldest three learned to swim from a young age and that they have confidence in the pool and ocean. Empowering them with these skills has made me feel confident about them being around swimming pools; I didn’t want to pass my fears on to them. My youngest is 18 months and she is now getting in the pool and learning to swim.

As part of my 40 before 40 challenge, where I set out to do 40 things before I turned 40, I had swimming at the top of my list. After five lessons, I began swimming 25 metres without fearing the deep end. I had learned the necessary skills to keep myself afloat while breathing and kicking. It was one of the most liberating feelings.

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Speaking to the Gulf News in Dubai  about my learn to swim journey

After sharing my story on Instagram (@arabianmum), I was inundated with messages from adults who had not learned to swim. They had been embarrassed for so long, but after following my journey they were encouraged to face their fears. A popular radio show in Dubai, Virgin Radio’s the Kris Fade Show, aired my story, sparking a flood of calls and messages to the programme.

Myself and the presenters of the Kris Fade Show teamed up with Absolute Swimming UAE, where I have been learning to swim, to offer a group of adult non-swimmers an opportunity to learn to swim. The impact was immediate. Local UAE media supported the campaign as did UAE-based Serbian Olympian and two-time European swimming champion Velimir Stjepanovic.

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Velimir Stjepanovic joins the campaign

Swimming is a necessity. So often we assume and take for granted that everyone around us knows how to swim. Learning to swim, whether you’re an adult or a child, can save lives.

If you’re afraid of the water and have put off learning to swim for a while, make today the day you start. Parents, please invest in swimming lessons for your children. It may be the difference between life and death.

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Kris Fade and Priti Malik from Virgin  Radio supporting learn to swim  listeners

You can continue to follow my swimming story on Instagram (@arabianmum).

Thank you to the team at Absolute Swimming UAE, Kris Fade and the team at the Kris Fade Show for getting behind this important campaign to learn to swim.

GIRL POWER

WHO RUNS THE WORLD?

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Revamped Ms Marvel, aka Kamala Khan

As women around the world celebrate International Women’s Day, MyArabia caught up with Sana Amanat, Marvel’s Director of Content and Character Development.

Amanat was in Dubai this week as a guest at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, the Middle East’s largest literature festival.

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Amanat with former U.S President Barack Obama, who referred to her as a real life superhero

The 34-year-old, from New Jersey, became a household name after co-creating Marvel’s first Muslim character, Kamala Khan, all so known as Ms Marvel.

Watch the full interview here…

Embarking on New Challenges

Learning to Ski

As I prepare to say goodbye to my thirties, I have decided to embark on a 40 before 40 challenge to bid farewell to one of the best decades of my life.

I am 40 in April.

This challenge is not about being a daredevil, instead I want it to help me make better lifestyle choices and be a little more adventurous in my forties.

On my 40 before 40 list is learning to ski. Thankfully I didn’t need to travel to Switzerland or France for this challenge. In Dubai we have the world’s largest indoor snow park, Ski Dubai, where I began my five-week ski camp earlier this week.

While I won’t be sharing my entire list, I will give you a few snap shots of some of the challenges I am facing.

Next….learn to swim.

Expat Exodus

Saying Goodbye to Friends

Living as an expat anywhere in the world means being away from your loved ones. Wherever we end up, our friends become the closest thing to family.

It’s inevitable, particularly living in the Arab world where we will never be the citizens of the country, for the expat journey to end.

The past year has been particularly difficult as one by one I’ve watched good friends make the hard decision to return to their native countries. The impact of falling oil prices has had a crippling effect on jobs across all industries.

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Geraldine and her family left Dubai in December 2015

Last Summer residents first began to witness the large exodus of expats across the region, mostly families, where one spouse had lost his or her job. Summer or Christmas are usually the most common times for families to pack up and leave, as it ensures their child’s education is not disrupted.

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I caught up with Lisa for the first time in Sydney earlier this year after she left Abu Dhabi in 2009

The high cost of living has also played a critical role in expats leaving the GCC. Some families have even opted to separate, with dad staying on and working in the region while mum and the children return home. The main trigger is the cost of education. Here in the UAE private school fees continue to rise, with some schools often charging more than USD 10,000 for kindy.

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When you’re an expat your friends are your extended family

The expat exodus has become the most talked about issue at mummy group gatherings – many said their good byes this past week as schools wrapped up for the winter break. My eldest daughter, Janah, a Year 7 student, said three children in her class would not return in the new school year.

This past week I learned that another friend left Dubai.  It’s the fifth family that has returned to their country over the last year.

As I look back on my 8.5 years in the UAE, I’m reminded of the mass exodus, post the global financial crisis. I had only been here for six months when it hit our shores. The impact was felt across all industries. We were among the few families who survived it and we watched as Dubai and neighbouring cities rebuilt.

When old friends leave, it opens the door to new friendships. I’m looking forward to welcoming newcomers to the city. To my old friends, we will always have DUBAI.

In Brief: 7DAYS to shut down   

On December 22, 2016, Dubai’s most loved newspaper, 7Days, will print its final newspaper.

The current trading environment and future global outlook for print advertising remains severely challenged,” explains 7Days CEO Mark Rix. “Whilst it was our stated intention to re-focus and restructure the business for 2017 and beyond, it has since proved not possible to create an acceptable cost base that could deliver a viable and sustainable business.

“It is therefore with great sadness that we announce the unique 7DAYS news brand will close and thus, cease to inform and entertain the UAE in its refreshing and inimitable way.”

The closure leaves about 50 people, some friends, without jobs.

 

 

Finding My Way Back

IMG_9675Almost two years have passed since my last post. I can remember the day I lost my passion to write: it was not long after I found out I was pregnant with my fourth child.

Since then I’ve given birth to a beautiful baby girl, Amalia, but the journey to this point has been long. Once, writing was my way of processing what was happening in my world. It was the easiest way to vent or to express happy moments. Written words were far more powerful than spoken.

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I’m slowly coming back. There is so much to tell you. My battle with prenatal depression was perhaps the main reason I stayed away. I lost control of my coaching voice and it took a long time for it to resurface. I’ll write about it soon.

I’m still in Dubai. I can’t believe it has been almost nine years in this incredible city and country, which really does hold a place in my heart. The United Arab Emirates is our second home.

Let me introduce the new addition to our family. Amalia was born on 20 October 2015, and shares her birthday with her father. She completes my beautiful family.

2016 was also the year I met some very special people. After years of speaking on the phone and hearing their horror story of escaping the Syrian war, I met my aunty Hiyam and her family during a short trip to Lebanon. I also met my uncles, my mother’s brothers, one of whom lost his battle with cancer in November. It was a truly sad day, as I had only just started to lean more about my extended family. Having a base in the Middle East has allowed me to discover more about people I’d only seen in photographs during my childhood. I’ll write more about it over the next few months.

As one year ends and another is about to begin, I’d like to take this moment to wish you safe and happy holidays.

My Arabia will be back with so many wonderful stories.