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For centuries, the Indian joint family system integrated the elderly into family and childcare duties. But during the past two-three decades with the rise of the 21st century nuclear family, the role of grandparents has steadily diminished. Nevertheless, it’s important to bear in mind that they can play an important role in instilling positive values, traditions and time-tested cultural mores in young children - Nandini  Reddy,  Cynthia  John  &  Mini  P. 

The modern 21st century Indian family is an evolved amalgam of nuclear and joint families with working parents supported in childcare by hands-on grandparents. The grandparents’ home has transformed from being a summer escape to an omnipresent refuge and preferred alternative to paid child caregivers and professional day-care minders. As the number of double income parents in India is rising continuously, grandparents are playing important and involved roles in their grandchildren’s lives, and in some cases becoming de facto parents.

According to David W. Shwalb and Ziarat Hossain, authors of Grandparents in Cultural Context (2017), the country’s elderly population (60+) is expected to rise 11 percent by 2025, and 20 percent by 2050, making India the most aged society in South Asia with an elderly population of 323 million. This huge demographic shift offers the potential of reviving the traditional Indian practice of multigenerational living arrangements that integrate the elderly into family and childcare duties. For several generations, within the traditional Indian joint family, grandparents have played an important role in nurturing grandchildren physically and emotionally by providing them love, security and benefit of their life experiences.

The enabling and life-changing role of grandparents is reinforced by contemporary studies. For instance, recent research conducted by the University of Oxford highlights the important role of grandparents in ensuring children’s well-being. The report authored by Prof. Ann Buchanan of the department of social policy and intervention, says that “a high level of grandparental involvement increases the well-being of children. And a study of more than 1,500 children (in the UK) showed that those with a high level of grandparental involvement had fewer emotional and behavioural problems.”

Vice-versa, grandchildren have a positive influence on grandparents. “South Asian grandparents find meaning in life as they invest in childcare, participate in decision-making, and socialisation, and inculcate cultural values in their grandchildren. Feelings and experiences of responsibility and authority… keep South Asian grandparents active and healthy,” write David W. Shwalb and Ziarat Hossain in Grandparents in Cultural Context.

Chennai-based V.P. Dhananjayan (70) and his wife Shanta, nationally renowned Bharatanatyam exponents, concur. The duo, who recently featured in a popular advertising campaign of telecom major Vodafone where they are shown to be trying out adventure sports such as river rafting and paragliding, define the new breed of inspirational grandparents who are not only active and fun-loving but also take a keen interest in nurturing their grandchildren. “Today’s parents have little time for their children and rely on grandparents as a support system. Grandparents play a very important role in giving children companionship and moulding their character. They pass on cultural and moral values, teach them patience, humour, kindness and compassion. They also share important life lessons that help children in their careers. For instance, my grandson sees our devotion and dedication to our work, and I am certain this will motivate him to give 100 percent to whatever career he chooses,” says Dhananjayan, a doting grandfather to 12-year-old Samarth.

With 21st century grandparents such as the Dhananjayans refusing to abandon their careers and/or reskilling themselves and actively pursuing sports interests and hobbies, the stereotype of the house-bound retired Indian grandparent is fast disappearing. Dr. Gita Mathai, a Vellore-based paediatrician, blogger, marathoner and swimmer, is one such new-age grandparent. While she still practices as a paediatrician, she has also taken to swimming and marathons. “I owe my success in marathons to my grandfather. When I was in class V, I was very depressed over losing a sprint competition. My grandfather advised me, to practise hard for the next race by running five times around the house every day. I followed his advice and never lost another race in school. Later, I took up running and swimming. My grandson took to running after watching me, and we have won many competitions as a family. I want to give my grandson the time, love and valuable mentoring my grandparents gave me,” says Mathai. 

Pros and Cons 

Yet while double income parents want the aid and assistance of grandparents in raising children, it’s not all smooth sailing. Every generation has its own ideas of child development and disagreements over how to raise the children are inevitable between parents and grandparents. The biggest areas of contention are food, discipline, gifts and religious beliefs. Comments Dr. Shiva Prakash Srinivasan, a Chennai-based child and adolescent psychiatrist: “Grandparents pass on knowledge, traditional skills and good manners but on the flip side, they excuse naughty behaviour and are often permissive with gadgets and screen time. The crux is to ensure that differing parenting styles do not adversely impact children. That’s why it’s important for grandparents to consult their grown children and be in sync with their parenting styles. Ditto, it’s important for parents to value, respect and appreciate the time, attention, love and nurturance grandparents are giving to their children,” he says.

According to Dr. Srinivasan, children with special needs in particular, benefit greatly from involved grandparents. “Special needs children who have involved grandparents show pronounced improvement in developing cognitive and social capabilities. The undivided attention grandparents provide is essential for the development of special children. A parent’s attention is divided between family and work whereas a grandparent offers more quality time and care that sets daily routines beneficial to a special child,” he says. 

Shahnaz Azeez, Chennai-based counsellor and life coach, believes that the informal and stress-free relationship grandparents share with their grandkids helps them to openly discuss emotional and behavioural problems. “Grandparents bring essential balance into a child’s life. Parents often don’t have the patience to deal with their children and/or tend to discipline them, but grandparents seem to communicate the same thoughts through storytelling and frank conversations rather than lectures and constant nagging,” says Azeez.

Grandparents Day

Recognising the special importance of grandparents in shaping children’s lives, several schools and organisations are organising events to celebrate this unique bond. Recently, HLC International School, Chennai, organised a grandparents’ day. “We organised this unique celebration to bring back the joy of grandparenting. We have noticed that children who share a close bond with their grandparents, are more cheerful and participative in extra-curricular activities,” says Raaji Naveen, vice principal of HLC International.

Manveen Chadha, principal, Velammal World Preschool, Chennai, also organised a similar event on September 28, celebrated as Indian Grandparents’ Day across the country. “Grandparents are the only link that the child has with his parent’s childhood. Children who grow up under the warm, secure and loving care of their grandparents develop higher self-esteem, better communication and analytical thinking skills and grow into well-rounded individuals,” says Chadha.

Famous people and their grandparents

Several famous people have been raised by grandparents including former US President Barack Obama, who fondly remembered his grandmother in his presidential victory speech in 2008. “While she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother's watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight. I know that my debt to them is beyond measure.”

PepsiCo CEO, Indira Nooyi also disclosed in a recent interview that a big force in her life was her paternal grandfather, a charismatic judge in India. She also spoke of her struggles about balancing family and career. “Let's solve it by bringing the aging (grandparents), the middle-aged kids who are having kids and the little kids all together to be a supportive system. That's the next revolution,” she said in a conversation onstage at Tina Brown’s Women in the World Summit 2016.

Kirthi Jayakumar, founder of the Red Elephant Foundation, a Chennai-based youth-led peacebuilding initiative, credits her grandmother with giving her a nuanced understanding of feminism. “I initially understood feminism to be anti-men. But my grandmother explained that when men show love and care and don’t discriminate on the basis of gender or identity, they need to be appreciated. That day, my grandmother redefined my myopic view of feminism. Feminism for me became about making my own choices, right to equality and the right to be empowered to make choices,” she says.
In this age of the nuclear family, the role of supportive and involved grandparents who instil positive values, behaviour and attitudes in children, has assumed new and critical significance to ensuring their physical and emotional well-being.

Impactful grandparenting

The US-based Foundation for Grandparenting has listed the following attributes of effective grandparenting:

 Being there. A grandparent’s presence is positively correlated with increased emotional security in a grandchild. A 2013 study by Boston College researchers found that “a close, emotional relationship between grandparents and grandchildren can have a measurable effect on the psychological well-being of both grandparents and grandchildren.”

 Giving. This is the most defining characteristic of effective grandparenting. Altruism as a personality trait can explain the biological foundation of grandparents’ nurturing, protective and supportive roles.

 Vitality. It’s important for grandparents to not only be physically active, but also display emotional, spiritual, mental and intellectual vitality. And vitality is a two-way street. Grandchildren benefit from their grandparents’ vitality, but are also capable of vitalising grandparents. Grandparents who share a deep bond with grandchildren report that they have more energy and vitality since they began caring for the grandchildren.

Effective grandparents are creative in overcoming obstacles that prevent them from being with their grandchildren. Long-distance grandparents can maintain a strong attachment to grandchildren by using the phone, mail, or computer to bridge physical distances.

 Positive relationships. Grandparents are proactive about getting involved in their families’ lives and strive to be supportive figures for all. According to the World Health Organisation, today’s grandparents are more likely to be healthy, involved in the family daily regimen, and more economically independent than the previous generation. US-based psychologist M. Silverstein’s research indicates that in Asian societies when grandparents choose not to participate in childcare of young grandchildren, their relationships with their children deteriorate gradually.

It’s official: Grandparents matter

 In July 2017, the US Supreme Court overturned President Donald Trump’s proposal to ban grandparents from some Muslim countries from visiting their grandchildren in the US. The lead lawyer opposing the ban argued: “Compelling a grandparent to be away from his grandchild — especially one seeking refuge from violence or persecution — inflicts hardship of unbearable severity.”

 The crucial role of grandparents in children’s lives is acknowledged in several studies and surveys. They “embody a critical cultural and financial link that unifies families with a shared heritage and a common view of the future,” says a 2010 survey titled Generation to Generation: Grandparents Imparting Lessons, Legacy and Love, by the MetLife Mature Market Institute (MMI). The survey which covers grandparenting in Asia and India noted that grandparents provide emotional succour, unconditional love and most importantly, financial assistance.

The major findings of the MMI survey are:

 Over one-quarter (28 percent) of Asian/Indian grandparents are providing direct caregiving services to their grandchildren, usually daily. Just under one-quarter (21 percent) provide care several times a week. Most (67 percent) are providing caring services to one or more grandchildren.

 The most frequently identified values grandparents instil in their children and grandchildren are cultural, significance of religious traditions, and heritage/ancestry information.

 Honesty, good behaviour, and good health practices are important life skills that Asian/Indian grandparents teach grandchildren.

 Almost a third (31 percent) of grandparents provide financial assistance or monetary gifts to their grandchildren, primarily in the form of education subsidies and/or general support.

The article was published in the print version of ParentsWorld November (Cover Story) 2017 issue.

For new age parents who have begun to discover food that is healthy, ethically produced, and minimally processed, here are good reasons for going vegan with some attractive vegan lunch box ideas - Bhumika K

Do you suffer anxiety about the ethics and origins of the food on your dining table? Or do you have allergies-prone children? Then, you seriously need to evaluate the benefits of going vegan.

Vegans are people who choose not to eat animal-based products — either because they want to eat cruelty-free food, or believe that plant-based foods are as good or better than dairy and meat products. They believe this way of life can contribute to an eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle. There is a growing community of vegans in India, who are getting creative with their food, blogging about it, sharing ideas and resources. And they are also sharing this lifestyle with their children.

Revathi Anne Jagan, a Bangalore-based homemaker and former air hostess, has been vegan since 2011. Her family including children Chiara (11) and Neil (8) chose to go vegan in 2016. “They know and understand my reasons for eating ethically. And we watched the documentary Earthlings last year as a celebration of World Vegan Day (November 1), and that converted them to veganism,” says Jagan. “On a daily basis, their lunch boxes are very easy to pack — the snack is usually fruit, nuts or seeds. For instance I might pack them pears and lotus seeds. Lunch is usually rice or rotis with a curry of dal/ channa/ rajma/ quinoa/some other lentils or beans — quinoa-peas-potato is their favourite and a vegetable simply sautéed.”

Once a week, the children get pasta with a sauce in which she hides a lot of veggies. Some days they get tofu-mushroom fried rice. “If I’m lazy or wake up a little late, they get rasam-rice and a veggie. When they come home from school, the kids get a treat of zucchini bread or chocolate cake,” she elaborates.

Is vegan food nutritious?
Jagan believes veganism can meet the body’s nutritional needs as long as a wholesome plant-based diet with plenty of raw fruit and veggies is followed. “My children and I also take a B12 supplement as B12 is found in only animal foods. They play a lot of sports and learn the piano so their week is jam-packed but they still have loads of energy. I believe they are two of the healthiest kids around,” she says.

Rheea Mukherjee, a Bangalore-based writer and vegan baker, and author of the blog ‘Messy Cooking, Always Vegan’, concurs. “There are so many myths about the nutritional potency of foods such as milk, eggs, and meat. A plants-based diet can be nutritious but first, be open to it and understand it. Children aren’t rooted to habit the way adults are, which is why it is not so difficult for the next generation to go vegan,” says Mukherjee.

Well-planned veganism

According to Anjali Dange V, consultant nutritionist and founder, Starlite Wellness Centre, Vishakapatnam, just like there are good and bad everyday diets, there are good and bad vegan diets. “To ensure children follow a healthy vegan diet, parents have to be very well researched and informed about veganism,” she says, advising parents to ensure that children eat large quantities of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds so that they get all the micro nutrients (vitamins and minerals) necessary for physical growth and development.

“Children need supplements for physiologically important nutrients such as iron and calcium. Therefore, vegan proteins have to be paired wisely to ensure they receive a complete set of amino acids necessary for muscle growth. Sometimes it becomes necessary to increase fat intake to meet the daily calories requirements of the body. Immunity can get compromised when the vitamin levels drop in meal patterns,” warns Dange.

Bangalore-based Lakshmi Anand, a vegan food blogger, yoga and fitness enthusiast, and her husband have been vegans for five years. Her children Chinmayi (8) and Pranav (6) also took to veganism of their own volition three years ago. “I try to balance the carbs, proteins and vitamin-mineral-fibre in their snack and lunch boxes. My advice would be to infuse more natural colours into children’s diets. More colourful fruits and vegetables look attractive to children,” says Anand.

Recommended lunch boxes

Jagan says nut spreads and homemade preserves are very easy to make and children often enjoy making them on weekends. “The more involved children are in making food, the more willing they will be to eat it. Almost all recipes can be adapted to veganism. Moreover, there are plenty of vegan cooking websites one can refer for ideas. For an occasional treat, there are vegan goodies such as chocolates, gelato ice creams, cookies, and even vegan sausages in the market,” she says.

On her blog ‘Cook It Up With Love,’ Anand offers a large repertoire of vegan lunch box ideas — vegetables stuffed parathas with cashew cream, multi-grain bread sandwiches, millet dosas, red rice idlis topped with cashews and grated carrots, momos stuffed with cabbage and capsicum, idiappam (string hoppers), kurma with coconut milk, and puttu (steamed rice cake) with black channa curry.

Susmitha Subbaraju, chef and co-owner of Bengaluru’s vegan restaurant, Carrots, suggests making vegan food as colourful, interesting and attractive looking as possible. “Including some raw fruit and vegetables helps,” says Subbaraju, who also blogs at Veganosaurus. “Send some chocolate flavoured nut-based mylk (vegan non-dairy milk) shakes in little bottles for lunch. They never fail to please children. The trick is to ensure that your child feels pride and joy in having her lunch, and could be an example to other children to demand healthier food choices from their parents,” adds Subbaraju.

Challenges and criticism

Finding recipes for vegan lunch-boxes should not be a problem, as any parent who needs to pack a vegan meal can read up or access the necessary information on the Internet, says Shilpa Mogilishetty, co-founder of Jus Amazin Foods and Beverages, a Bengaluru-based start-up focused on providing nutritious food for people with special dietary needs.

“In the Indian context, the main challenge of accessing vegan ingredients and products that will make for varied, delicious, healthy, and wholesome vegan meals,” says Mogilishetty who also conducts workshops for parents. Very often, parents quickly develop a basic repertoire. Problems start when children get tired of the same vegan recipes. Then parents need to expand their repertoire.

Then there is the question of changing mindsets. Jagan does get criticised for being a vegan mum — but it only comes from people who don’t understand or haven’t researched veganism. “Age-old thinking of high protein requirements still holds sway. My response is to tell them to think of horses and elephants — some of the strongest in the animal kingdom — who get all the essential amino acids (protein needs) and nutrients just from leaves, grass and the sun!” says Jagan.

Millet and vegetables whole-wheat wraps


 1 cup whole wheat flour
 1 cup chopped vegetables such as carrots, beans, potatoes, broccoli, capsicum, etc for the stir fry (1 inch pieces)
 1/4 cup foxtail millets
 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
 1/4 cup chopped onions
 1 tsp roasted cumin powder
 1/2 tsp pepper powder
 1/2 tsp red chilly powder
 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
 1-2 green chillies
 2 tsp lemon juice
 Coarsely chopped coriander leaves
 Few mint leaves
 1/4 cup peanuts
 5 or 6 deseeded dates
 1 tsp oil
 Salt to taste

Preparation guide

Mix the whole wheat flour with a pinch of salt in a bowl. Slowly add warm water, mix and knead well for five minutes till you get a smooth dough. Set aside for 15 minutes

 To cook the millets, first wash and soak for 10 minutes. Then drain the water and add 3/4 cups water, salt to taste and pressure cook for three whistles. Set aside.

 In a pan, dry roast peanuts till they are crunchy, but not overly roasted. Remove from the pan and cool.

 Blend the roasted peanuts, chopped dates, mint leaves, a pinch of salt, red chilly powder, and grind nicely. Add some water and blend to get a smooth sauce. The peanut-dates sauce is now ready.

 To make the salsa, mix chopped tomatoes, onions, and green chillies, cumin powder, salt, lemon juice, and coriander leaves in a bowl. Set aside.

 Heat a teaspoon of oil in an iron wok. Add turmeric powder. Now add the chopped vegetables one by one and sauté. Make sure they are cooked and yet maintain a crunch. Add salt, pepper powder, and mix well. Lastly, add the cooked millets and mix well.

 Now make slightly thick rotis with the whole wheat flour.

 For making the wrap, take one roti, spread the peanut dates sauce, sprinkle some salsa, and place the stir fried veggies and millet mix neatly in the middle. Wrap the roti around it, and dive in!

 As a variation, you could use other sauces such as tahini, or hummus, or cashew cheese. Instead of millets, you could use red rice, or rajma, or kabuli channa too.

(Recipe and photo: Lakshmi Anand, Cook It Up With Love)

The article was published in the print version of ParentsWorld September 2017 issue.
PW invited parents of the Khaitan Public School, Ghaziabad, to share their insights on preparing children to deal with dangerous social media exposure and online games that could lead to self-harm and/or to the Blue Whale Challenge

“It is frightening to read news of teenagers falling prey to the dangerous Blue Whale Challenge. As a single working mother, I shoulder dual responsibilities. Nevertheless I am very vigilant about protecting my daughters Devagi (class VI) and Hiya (class IV). Most weekends are spent in elaborate family conversations, where we discuss about the harmful effects of excessive social media and online usage. I counsel them regularly that life has its ups and downs, and that we should draw on our inner strength and from each other to overcome them. I also encourage them to participate in extracurricular activities such as arts and music, and sports.” — Seema Dugar, retail entrepreneur

“I strongly believe that parents should monitor their children’s Internet usage and online activities, and have open discussions with them about the dangers of the online world. This can be done without nagging and invading their privacy, in a positive and healthy manner. We also encourage our children Rhythm (class VI) and Sanchit (class I) to participate in sports/outdoor activities, in order to canalise their energies in a positive manner, instead of being couch potatoes glued to electronic devices. As parents, we ensure open two-way communication with our children, mentoring and guiding them to take informed decisions.” — Bhupinder Parmar, income tax officer, Union ministry of finance

“It’s tragic that an increasing number of teenagers are indulging in self-destructive behaviour to escape their emotional emptiness, loneliness and depression. In our house, we leave no stone unturned to provide positive parenting to our child Divyansh (12) and are constantly mindful of his responses, activities and behaviour. We spend a lot of time talking to him, involving him in our daily discussions and also participate in outdoor activities during weekends. Divyansh enjoys freedom but we have also set some rules for his safety, which include no interaction with strangers in public or online or venturing out to unknown places under peer pressure. We also monitor the content he navigates online through parental control settings.” — Vishal Pant, senior HR manager, Berger Paints India Ltd

“We believe that open communication is the best solution and make persistent efforts to hear and understand our class VI child Sparsh’s perspective. We proactively discuss social media trends, online games and virtual friends and discuss their positives and negatives. Sparsh is also encouraged to bring his friends home in addition to playing outdoors. As parents we should be well-informed and equip ourselves to answer questions related to online abuse and safety on social media. In case, we don’t have answers, we research the topic and then discuss it.” — Nitin Sasidharan, manager (quality department), DXC Technology

The article was published in the print version of ParentsWorld October 2017 issue.

Contemporary United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the world’s fastest growing tourist destinations. It offers visitors sun, sand, sea, sports, unbeatable shopping, top-class hotels and restaurants, intriguing traditional culture, and a safe and welcoming environment

A federation of seven princedoms sited in the south-eastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, UAE is bordered by the Persian Gulf to the north, Saudi Arabia to the south and west, and Oman and the Gulf of Oman to the east. With an aggregate population of 9.4 million, it comprises Abu Dhabi (Abu Zaby), Ajman, Dubai, Al Fujayrah, Raâs al Khaymah, Ash Shariqah aka Sharjah, and Umm al Qaywayn and sprawls over an area of 83,600 sq. km including 700 km of coastline. In a country where expatriates outnumber locals, English, Hindi, Malayalam, Urdu and Persian are as widely spoken as Arabic, the official language. Though Islam is the official religion, UAE’s Constitution guarantees religious freedom to all and the toll of church and temple bells mingle with the call to prayer of muzzeins.

The emirates don’t offer much in terms of surviving historical or heritage monuments. Some historical ruins of the UAE — Rumeilah near Al Ain, Al Madam, Al Thuqaibah, Qarn Bint Saud and Hili — indicate that the region was inhabited by nomadic tribes circa 1000-300 BC. Recorded history however is available only for the past two-three centuries. Hitherto known the Trucial States, they were placed under British protection in 1892.

In 1952 the Trucial Council, comprising the rulers of seven sheikhdoms, was established with the objective of adoption of common administrative, economic and development policies. This council later evolved into a federation of emirates.

The discovery of crude oil and petroleum reserves in 1958 beneath the coastal waters of Abu Dhabi, the largest sheikdom of UAE, transformed the landscape and socio-economic profile of the country. Commercial exploitation of crude oil began in 1962, ushering in unprecedented prosperity in the region.

In January 1968, London announced its intention of withdrawing British military forces from the area by 1971. In March 1968 the Trucial States teamed with neighbouring Bahrain and Qatar to form the Federation of Arab Emirates. The intention was to create a federation to encompass the entire gulf region. But the interests of Bahrain and Qatar proved to be incompatible with those of the smaller sheikhdoms, and both seceded from the Federation in August 1971 to become separate independent nations.

In July 1971 representatives of six Trucial States (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ajman and Fujairah) wrote a federal Constitution and formed the United Arab Emirates while terminating the federation’s special treaty with the UK. Thus UAE became independent on December 2, 1971. The last sheikhdom, Raâs al-Khaimah, joined the UAE in February 1972.

Today UAE is one of the world’s fastest growing tourist destinations. The country offers visitors sun, sand, sea, sports, unbeatable shopping, top-class hotels and restaurants, intriguing traditional culture, and a safe and welcoming environment.

Climate. The best time to visit UAE is from October-March when the weather is cool and hospitable. Daytime temperatures generally don’t rise above 24°C and nights can get quite cold with mercury dipping to 13°C. The April-September months are hot and humid.

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi (pop. 2.7 million) is the largest of the seven emirates and occupies over 86 percent of UAE’s total landmass. Abu Dhabi city, capital of the UAE, is situated on an island about five miles wide and nine miles long and connected to the mainland by two wide and well-built bridges — Al Maqta and Mussafah. All federal government offices, parliament and foreign embassies are located in this compact, well-planned city.

Qasr al-Hosn aka Al Hosn Palace, in the heart of the city, is the oldest building here. Constructed in 1793 as the official residence of Abu Dhabi’s rulers, the fort was renovated in 1983. Surrounded by manicured lawns and well-maintained gardens, the fort is well worth a visit.

A short distance from the city centre is the marvelously engineered Abu Dhabi Corniche, an 8 km stretch of the island’s mangrove-fringed white sand shoreline.

The Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, housed in a delightful modern building of Islamic design, boasts several arching white colonnades, cool courtyards and green gardens. The foundation houses a large library stocked with 800,000 volumes and more than 250 English and Arabic journal subscriptions, a modern air-conditioned theatre, six lecture rooms, an exhibition centre and coffee shop. The centre also hosts cultural events such as music concerts, classic film festivals, art exhibitions and workshops.

The Abu Dhabi Heritage Village is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Situated on a 1,600 sq. metre site overlooking the Corniche, it offers a feel of traditional life in Abu Dhabi. In addition to bedouin tents, there are reconstructions of palm (arish) and other houses, old fishing villages and traditional souqs.

The Women’s Handicraft Centre is another must-see if you are interested in local crafts. Run by the Abu Dhabi Women’s Association, it displays wares ranging from perfumed oils to local costumes and pottery. Its quaint Arabic kitchen serves the region’s cuisine in a traditional ambience.
The Dhow harbour is a meeting point for sailing enthusiasts and hosts regular dhow races. Along the quay is a small market with interesting odds and ends.

Accommodation. High-end: Emirates Palace Hotel, Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa, Al Hamra Plaza Residence, Zaya Nurai Island Resort (Dhs.1,800-31,000). Mid-Range: Al Ain Palace Hotel, Al Raha Beach Hotel, Al Rawda Rotana Suites (Dhs. 475-800). Budget: Al Maha Rotana Suites, Novotel Centre Hotel, Golden Tulip Al Jazira (Dhs. 200-400). (NB: Dh 1=Rs.17.5)

Al Ain

About 135 km from Abu Dhabi built around an oasis close to the UAE-Oman border is Al Ain (pop. 650,000), a lush green low-rise city sited in the shade of the Jebel Hafit mountains. Surrounded by rugged cliffs and blessed with adequate groundwater resources, this is one of the most fertile agricultural areas of the emirates. The country’s main varsity UAE University, is sited here against a mountainous backdrop.

Apart from forts and mountains there are other interesting tourist attractions in Al Ain. The Al Ain Oasis sited in a date plantation is divided into several small date farms and is accessible by foot and car. The Al Ain Zoo and Aquarium is the largest in the Middle East region. Sprawling over 400 hectares, the zoo is home to a wide variety of animals from Africa, India and Arabia and its huge aquarium houses an interesting collection of aquatic life.

The Al Ain Museum houses an extensive archaeological and ethnographical collection, including some beautiful gold pendants and an impressive coin collection besides a large collection of gifts received by the president from visiting statesmen and royalty.

High-end: Intercontinental Palm Oasis Resort, Hilton International, Al Ain Rotana Hotel (Dhs. 350-3000). Mid-range and Budget: Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet, Green Desert Hotel (Dhs. 200-500).

Excursions are available from the Al Ain Hili Archaeological Park (10 km) famous for its beautiful gardens built around several bronze and iron age sites, dating back to circa 2,500-400 BC. These sites also feature a number of antique buildings including the Grand Garden Tomb, a circular construction with three internal dividing walls housing the remains of over 200 ancients.


The emirate of Dubai is the undisputed commercial capital of UAE. Occupying an area equivalent to a mere 5 percent of the country’s total landmass, Dubai extends along the Arabian Gulf coast for approximately 72 km north of Abu Dhabi. Stretching along the strip of a narrow 10-km winding creek which divides the southern section of Bur Dubai, the city’s traditional heart, from Deira — a bustling commercial area containing an eclectic mix of retail outlets, souqs, hotels and golf courses — Dubai is a thriving trading centre famous for its distinctive skyscrapers and modern buildings such as the 39-storey World Trade Centre, Jumeriah Hotel, Twin Towers among other landmarks. Dubai also boasts Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.

The most famous tourist attraction here is perhaps the scenic Jumeirah Beach fringing which are a number of award winning hotels. Don’t miss the Dubai Museum sited in the precincts of the Al Fahidi Fort located in Bur Dubai. The museum contains an impressive collection of weapons, traditional costumes, musical instruments and the courtyard features good examples of arish huts and wooden boats.

Another must-visit location is the Heritage and Diving Village featuring reconstructions of Dubai’s maritime past. Objects on display include a tented bedouin village with traditional weapons, chests and household utensils. The village boasts a number of cafeterias and a seafood restaurant.

The fairly old style but exceptionally maintained Dubai Zoo which houses several rare species including the Arabian oryx, Gordon’s wildcat, Grevy’s zebra, Syrian bear and Arabian gazelle, is worth a visit. An evening stroll along Dubai Creek Waterfront offers visitors a glimpse into Dubai’s traditional maritime roots.

Accommodation. High-end: The Ritz Carlton, Oasis Beach Hotel, Shangri-La Hotel (Dhs. 3,000-16,000). Mid-range: Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa, Sofitel Dubai City Centre, Movenpick Hotel (Dhs. 700-3,800). Budget: Golden Sands Hotel Apartments, Le Meridien Dar Al Sandos Hotel Apartments (Dhs. 300-750).

Excursions. Jebel Ali (30 km) houses a sprawling man-made port and the largest free trade zone in the Arab world. It is famous for its teeming souqs and supermarkets offering literally everything under the sun.

Jumeirah Archaeological Site (22 km), an affluent suburb to the south of Dubai city, is the location of archaeological ruins dating to the early Islamic period. Large houses built of beach rock (farush) covered with lime plaster have been excavated at Jumeirah by a team from the Dubai Museum.


Situated on the Gulf of Oman littoral, Fujairah is perhaps the most gifted of the seven emirates which constitute the UAE, in terms of sun and sand. This emirate has a coastline of over 90 km and occupies only 1.5 percent of the country’s total landmass. Surrounded by ribbed rocky cliffs and sweeping valleys, Fujairah is a land of considerable natural beauty. It offers several scenic beaches and good diving locations while the hinterland features several cultural and historic sites. Agriculture and fishing, two traditional mainstays of the economy, are still vibrant activities.

The most important landmark of the town is the 360-year-old the Fujairah Fort. Sited on a hill at the edge of date gardens, the fort is surrounded by the remains of old town houses. The fort was severely damaged in the early 20th century by a British bombardment. Some restoration work has been done in the past, but recently renovations have been earnestly renewed to prepare the fort to house the artefacts now on display in the Fujairah Museum.

Fujairah also has a Heritage Village sited close to the fort which has a good selection of traditional houses (arish) and fishing boats (shasha) made of palm fronds. The Fujairah Museum displays an interesting collection of local artefacts found in archaeological digs at Qidfa, Bithnah.

Accommodation. High-end: Le Meridian Al Aqah Beach Resort, Hilton Fujairah, Al Diar Siji (Dhs. 800-8,000). Mid-range and Budget: Emirates Springs Hotel Apartments, Ritz Plaza Hotel (Dhs. 200-800).

Leisure sports in UAE

Desert safaris. The sandy plains stretching as far as the eye can see, broken only by windswept dunes, have a charm of their own. Enterprising travel agents have put together desert safari packages which have become very popular. A typical desert safari vrooms away at 4 p.m for a two-hour rough and tumble ride through sand dunes in powerful four-wheel drive vehicles. Cocktails and dinner in bedouin-style tents follow with entertainment provided by comely belly dancers.

Diving and snorkelling.
Peninsular UAE offers numerous diving and snorkelling locations to suit all levels of experience. Diving around reefs and wrecks all along the coast can be a stimulating experience. The best diving locales however are located off the coast of Khor Fakkan, where one can view abundant tropical fish and turtles. For diving permits/training get in touch with the Emirates Diving Association (www.

Dune buggies. One of the most thrilling terrestrial adventure activities offered here is dune bashing on a buggy. Dune buggies are available on hire at several places such as Hatta, Nazwa dunes about 40 km from Dubai.

Wadi exploration and bashing. A wadi is a dry riverbed, often the location of rock pools and unexpected vegetation, especially up in the hills. Wadi bashing trips organised by local tour operators involve driving helter skelter over rocks and streams and are not for the faint hearted. Sometimes rides can become quite rough and there have been instances when vehicles have turned turtle injuring passengers.

Fishing. Sports fishing is another popular activity in the emirates. The waters along the coasts teem with several species of fish such as marlin, sailfish, barracuda, mackerel, tuna, jack and bonito. September to April is the best time for angling.

The article was published in the print version of ParentsWorld October 2017 issue.