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It's ironic how I'm saying goodbye to Dubai, our home for 8 years as a family (and much longer for me), sitting here in India quite some while after having left the UAE. I think the reason it took me so long to write this is because it is hard to let go of a place like Dubai.

A place where my two children were born. A place where we have so many memories of Little Dude's childhood, of many beautiful places visited, of so many hopes and dreams. All of my motherhood experiences manifested in Dubai and that is also how this blog was born. Sand In My Toes is about me testing my toes in the sea of parenting, and also about my experiences as an expat in the desert city. 

I don't know how I feel about having left all that behind, returning now to a home that is familiar and yet so unfamiliar at the same time (because, I myself, was raised an expat child and never quite lived in India). I am not angry, but a little heartbroken even though we knew we would have to leave. We are expats after all.

At the moment it feels hard to go back and look at all our representations of life in Dubai, whether through souvenirs, presents, this blog, or my Instagram pictures. It still feels like we belong there. Which is why, I'm taking a little break from this blog and social media.

On the bright side, our expat journey is not quite over. We plan to start a new life in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia soon, which may open a new chapter on this blog.
So, stay tuned!

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I had never thought about introducing an Indian author to my son, especially this early. He’s just started reading on his own, and so far he’s liked reading books with adventure themes and interesting characters. He’s not a big fan of the classics. When I started looking for titles for children penned by Indian authors, I saw the rave reviews received by Moin and the Monster by Anushka Ravishankar. I instantly knew he would enjoy this book.


And it has lived up to my expectations. As I started helping him read it, he was already rolling around with laughter on the third page. The funny language and the cool capers of the monster make for unputdownable reading. This particular monster makes up his songs and that’s probably the most hilarious part.

I was wondering whether the book would have any cultural references to the Indian way of life, and it is full of them. Predominantly North Indian, the book’s characters are very much Indian in their speaking style, mannersims and actions. I liked how Moin’s mom takes him around on a ‘scooty’ scooter. And how

Without giving away too much of the story, I justwant you to know that if you have a young one aged 7 and over , this is a great book to have them hooked on to reading!


I'm participating in the MKB Read Around the World Summer Series, hosted by Multicultural Kid Blogs. See the list of recommended culturally diverse books on their site




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A lot is shared in the online and social media world about Ramadan. Especially for us, since we live in an Islamic country, Ramadan is very much understood and a way of life for the 30 days it lasts, whether you are fasting or not. But I find very little written about Eid, probably because people are busy celebrating with their families. Also, while Ramadan lasts a month, Eid is only celebrated over two or three days.

As a child, Eid was a very exciting time for me. There was lots to look forward to on Eid day. I try to create the same excitement for my boys. So, their favourite Eid traditions are similar to what I liked about Eid as a child. To put things into context, we are Indian expats living in the UAE.



Five of our favourite Eid traditions:
1. Eid prayers at the 'Eidgah'
Eid prayers are special, and usually performed at the 'Eidgah' which is a large open space that accommodates a large number of people. Eid prayers also happen in mosques, but for kids, this just makes it a special tradiiton.

2. Sweet breakfast
On Eid day, kids can binge on sweet desserts for breakfast, Generally, a form of thin or thick vermicelli dish with milk and nuts is prepared. In Hindi or Urdu, it is called 'sewsiyan' and this comforting, warm dessert made Eid mornings very special.

3. Eid money or 'Eidi'
This is another favourite Eid tradition of kids. Gifts for Eid are given in the form of envelopes containing money, to the children. All elders give Eidi to kids and at the end of Eid, kids have generally amassed enough cash to buy their favourite things.

4. New clothes
The joy of wearing new clothes is unparalleled. They are traditional clothes, but many kids will have multiple sets of new clothes because they will probably drop all that delicious food on it! For girls, there is the additional thrill of wearing jewelry and bangles.

5. Meeting cousins and friends
No festival is truly joyful without being in the company of friends and cousins, aunts and uncles. The family always gets together on Eid. Even as expats, we are lucky to have the company of close friends who are just like family.





Multicultural Kid Blogs is proud to be hosting its fourth annual Ramadan & Eid for Kids blog hop, where bloggers come together to share ideas for teaching kids about and honoring Ramadan & Eid. Don't forget to check out our blog hops from last year, 2016 and 2015. Be sure to follow our Ramadan & Eid boards on Pinterest for even more ideas and link up your own posts below!




Participating BlogsMulticultural Motherhood on Multicultural Kid Blogs: Ramadan in Our Home
A Crafty Arab: Ramadan Food Word Search Printable
Pintsize Gourmets
Jeddah Mom: Ramadan Fasting for Children Who Are Going to Fast for the First Time
AlizehmySoul: 6 Ways to Celebrate Eid with Your Toddlers
Multicultural Motherhood: Reasons for Fasting - Activities for Kids and Free Printables



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Ramadan is a favourite time of the year in our home, and Little Dude especially likes to get a little more involved every year. We like putting up a few decorations as they make him happy. But this time, I also want him to learn a few basics of our religion. It's perfect timing since he has also started Islamic studies at school (available for Muslim students in the UAE).

So, I came up with the idea of this Ramadan learning 'game'. The objective is to allow kids to understand and learn a few concepts about Islam. It is presented in the form of a board game and winning depends on who answers the questions correctly. As the kids play this game often, they will master the concepts.

Download the Ramadan Learning Game for Kids below! 




The game is suited best for 4 to 7 year olds because it has very simple questions, but older kids might like to try it too.

Hope you and your children like it, and you can use it as a way to initiate discussion or revise the basic tenets of Islam.

Note: Please excuse the image above where the colours of the game are slightly different. My printer was having a bad day!

Download 'Ramadan Learning Game'


Once you have clicked on the link, it will open in Google Drive. There is no log-in required. You can either download the printable by clicking on the arrow (for printing later), or print directly by clicking on the print icon. The file is in PDF format, you will have to use Adobe Reader if you are downloading it to open and print later. When you print, make sure your printer's setting is in the A4 Paper Size, Landscape format.

If your download doesn't start when you click on the arrow, check if a pop-up has been blocked, and allow it on your browser for Google Drive.

If you like this activity, you may also like our Ramadan Kindness Calendar printable and our Ramadan Lantern Craft

And if you're travelling to the UAE during Ramadan, do check out this Ramadan Guide for Families by Our Globetrotters


This post is part of the UAE Mom Bloggers Blog Hop for Ramadan.


Do check out other posts from our talented bloggers:

Building a Ramadan Legacy - Pocket Treasures 


DIY Soda Can Lanterns - Raising My Knight


My Ramadan Story - The Archi Effect

My Ramadan Favorites - Thoughts Over Chai



Tips for a Green Ramadan - Sustainability Tribe




Busy Hands is a series about activities and craft 
you can do with toddlers and young children.
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For a long time now, Mama and Abba have been suggesting, encouraging, bribing, and even commanding me to try walking. But I have a mind of my own, you see. And although I had already taken my first steps weeks ago, I was in no mood to actually start walking. It's more fun crawling and being carried around.

Then I realized I could do so much more of what I wanted to, and go where I want to, if I tried this walking thing. I think now when I finally did it, everyone at home is equally joyous and relieved. They can't believe I have finally done it at 20 months!

So I'm officially walking, but doing it completely on my own terms. At first, I humoured them by picking up things and handing them over, but hey, I'm no delivery boy, and I'll walk when I want to! And I can always tug Mama and make that sad face when I want her to pick me up. I know she can't wait to have me up and running, but I will take my own sweet time, as with everything else.

On a side note, Mama 'discovered' my two upper molar teeth completely by accident recently. Talk about 'second child syndrome'! Guess there's no escaping brushing time now.

Diary of a Toddler is a series of snippets about my youngest son, Little Guy, 
as he explores toddlerhood. I wrote a similar series, Toddler Tales, about my firstborn. 


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With two little boys, I'm not much of a traveler nowadays. Rather than worry about airports, luggage, and tour guides, I like to sit back and relax. For a few years now, we have been taking staycations on and off , in the many wonderful hotels in the UAE. It seems like a great thing to do at present, and we can leave the adventurous traveling for when the kids are older!

Fujairah is a great place to visit especially when the weather is as perfect as it is during the beginning of the year in the UAE. We recently had a wonderful staycation at Fujairah Rotana Resort & Spa. It was two days of relaxing, dining, and being pampered. So, I'm going to share every detail with you because it was that good.

Fujairah Rotana Resort & Spa is at a beautiful location on Al Aqah Beach. On the morning of our arrival, it was partly cloudy, and so just the right weather to enjoy the hotel and its facilities.


Our Suite 

As it was the weekend, it was busy in the hotel lobby, but our suite was made ready on time, as promised. We stayed in the Premium Ocean View Suite with a balcony. The living area had a long, shared balcony overlooking the ocean and most of the resort. We had asked for an extra bed, along with the king size bed in the bedroom.


The bedroom had a comfortable bed with its own television set and closet space. There were two bathrooms. but we would have had an easier time if there was a bathtub in one, as it's just easier to wash the kids that way. Perhaps we'll specifically ask that next time.


 The view from the balcony was just amazing, and the resort below looked so inviting that we just couldn't wait to head down.


Although the living area had a dining table, we were surprised to see a large terrace on the other end with a dining table, perhaps to arrange for a private dinner under the stars. The view from the terrace was beautiful too, with the Hajar mountains enveloping us in their natural form.


The Resort Facilities
The resort is very green with trees ad fountains everywhere, also attracting many pretty birds. It feels great to walk through the lawns, and if it weren't for the date palms. you could forget you were in the UAE.


As it was still a little hot in the afternoon, we headed straight for the pool. There is one huge pool, divided so one part is shallow and just right for kids. The pool slide was a big hit with Little Dude and he spent most of his time on it!


Later that evening, we visited the beach, which was clean and well maintained. The kids proceeded to
play in the sand, followed by heading into the cool Indian Ocean. We didn't opt for any water sports, but there were many activities to choose from, including kayaking and jet skiing.


Places to Eat
Now when you're holidaying with kids, you need to have a lot of food options, because they they keep asking for snacks every hour or two! Fujairah Rotana covers that for you. They have the Al Falaj Lobby Cafe where we had some pizza and juices while we waited for our room. It also has coffee, desserts, and pastries for when you want a quick bite.

Since we spent quite some time at the pool, we tried a few items from the Tropicana Pool Bar. The nachos with chili topping was a great poolside snack, and the mocktails were refreshing. My son loved the mango cheesecake.


For dinner, we chose Waves, a seafood restaurant right by the beach. It was lovely to sit outside in the evening and hear the waves crashing. The ambiance is very  relaxing. I enjoyed my appetiser of crab cakes served with salad. My main dish of spaghetti with grilled lobster was delicious, especially the fresh lobster meat. The grilled lamb skewers were nice too. The staff were kind enough to offer kids' meal options to Little Dude, so he had the chicken nuggets and fries. We finished off this lovely meal with some warm chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream.


Our breakfast was at Mozaique Restaurant. They served all the breakfast staples, including cereals, breads, pastries, cold cuts, yogurts and fresh fruit. Among the warm food, I liked the foul beans and the shepherd's pie. They also had live cooking stations for omelettes and waffles.


Another great spot for meals at the resort is Sharkey's Bar. It's also at the beach, and perfect for casual dining. We chose this place for a light lunch and tried their cold mezze and peri peri chicken.


Fun for the Kids
There's a lot of kids to do at Fujairah Rotama. The Flippers Kids Club has a daily schedule of indoor and outdoor activities. They have a reading corner, a trampoline and even parrots to look at. The club is mostly suited for kids aged over 3 years, although you can take babies as long as you stay with them.


There's also a big playground otudoors for when you're done with the pool and beach. Both my boys liked this area.


Spa Time
Now, it wouldn't be a vacation without some pampering, would it? I sneaked in a relaxing massage at Zen The Spa, and as my lovely therapist worked her magic, I felt truly de-stressed and savoured the wonderful memories we made at this resort. The spa offers many treatments and you can book yourself in for a special couples massage at the private Serenity Suite, which would be a real treat if you want a special experience.


If you're going as a family, the Fujairah Resort & Spa is a great choice because there is something for everyone to do there. You'll never run out of things to so, and most importantly, you'll feel relaxed and pampered by their great staff!


We were invited to review the resort, but all views and opinions are sincerely my own.
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I turned 18 months old today, and Mama has high hopes that I will become more independent. She's really counting on me walking soon so she can put me down and go om with whatever 'important' things she does around the house (although I seriously doubt that).

Well, she's going to see that I'm not ready to let go yet. I really think walking is overrated, when you can get by so much faster with crawling. Walking will only slow me down. But I have been practicing my walking too but only when either Mama or Abba hold my hands. Then I make them walk all around the house until they tire out and furiously try to distract me (doesn't work, usually).

But there is one thing I love more than crawling and that is being carried around like royalty. It's the easiest and fastest method of getting around I've discovered so far. I make sure I don't sit by myself for more than ten minutes unless I'm really busy playing. Otherwise I just start screaming until Mama comes running to pick me up. Yup, I have no intention of letting her go anywhere without me on her hip.

I'm sure she'll realise soon enough that this is for her good. I mean, I'm going to be all grown up and then she'll miss me as a baby. So, I'm making sure that she doesn't miss a single moment.


Diary of a Toddler is a series of snippets about my youngest son, Little Guy, 
as he explores toddlerhood. I wrote a similar series, Toddler Tales, about my firstborn. 

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It feels great to break routine and get away from the city once in a while. We were looking for a quick staycation in the UAE and had the opportunity to check out the Hilton Garden Inn, Ras Al Kahimah (RAK). Now, we've never stayed in this city before so the hotel seemed like a good choice because of its central location. Also, it offers guests free access to the Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort and Spa.

We checked in on an overcast day. With the two children, we were offered adjoining, interconnected rooms. This is actually a good choice for families, allowing you to enjoy two baths, and more importantly, two television sets!

The first room with a queen bed.
The second room with twin beds.

Our room overlooked the pool area and the Ras Al Khaimah Harbour next to the hotel. It was quite lovely and frankly, I wasn't expecting this unobstructed view in a city hotel so it was a pleasant surprise.


We liked the pool area to just hang about (it was a little windy for a swim when we arrived). There are cabanas to relax in, and a covered kids pool.

If you prefer the beach, there is a shuttle at the hotel that leaves for the Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort and Spa, which is a few minutes drive. We decided to drive there ourselves since we usually have to travel with a lot of gear for the kids!

The resort is huge, with all of seven outdoor pools. We mostly hung around the kids pool with the slide, which Little Dude just didn't want to leave, except when we mentioned the beach. The beach is clean and wide, surrounding the resort on multiple sides because of its size and the shape of the shoreline.


They also have a Kids Club, which is also included in the access for Hilton Garden Inn guests. The Club does daily activities for the children, like movies and outdoor games.

After returning from a long day at the resort, we unwinded by the pool side at Hilton Garden Inn, enjoying the cool weather. For those who still have the energy for shopping, Al Naeem Mall is right next door.


We had our dinner and breakfast the next morning at the Garden Grille Restaurant. The breakfast was definitely a more grand affair, with many food choices and live cooking stations. The waffle station was a hit with most kids!


The Hilton Garden Inn is a good choice if you're looking for a quick getaway and its location is advantageous if you want to be in the city, yet enjoy time at the beach resort.

Here's a short video of our great weekend:

Staycation at Hilton Garden Inn, Ras Al Khaimah - YouTube


The day we checked out, we were planning to explore the city's historic architecture and it's natural mangroves. Sadly, a thunderstorm in the afternoon ruined our plans and led to an adventurous drive back to Dubai. Perhaps we will return again some time to explore Ras Al Khaimah.

For more information on Hilton Garden Inn Ras Al Khaimah or to make a booking, visit their website. 


We were guests at the hotel, but all views and opinions are sincerely my own.
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Having been in Dubai for so many years, I've seen how kids are positively spoilt for choice when it comes to activities and play areas. But something about OliOli intrigued me when I first heard about  it. The founders call it a 'play museum', where children are free to play and discover as they like. So, it was with no clear expectations that we first visited OliOli for a preview. Located in Al Quoz, just behind Oasis Center Dubai, the building looked huge. That only made us more curious to the wonders inside.


And we were not disappointed. OliOli has eight different galleries. Each gallery is very spacious. You don't get that feeling of too much being crammed into one place. You can breathe easy and allow your children to freely and explore as their interests allow them.

Without sounding too mystical, let me share our first impressions of OliOli, and exactly what we did there. At the reception itself, there's a fun interactive display. A camera records short videos from a kiosk and it is played on the wall next to it, as part of a collage. This kept us entertained for at least 10 minutes before even venturing in!


Air

The first gallery is about the exploration of air. Children can 'see' air in action through many interactive experiments and displays. The most fascinating of it all is the maze of air pipes in which you can watch coloured parachutes move around. Every display was interactive, but the simple experiments were engaging enough to keep my son's attention for a long time. But, of course, there is so much more to explore.



Toshi's Nets

This gallery will probably make you gasp at the visual cornucopia of colourful threads. Once the kids get in the nets, they can be hard to find, but be assured that they're having a wonderful time! The story behind this installation is amazing, The nets have been knit by hand by a Japanese textile artist who took a year to make it. So, you can understand what makes these nets so special.


Creative Lab

This lab was quite hands-on. Little Dude instantly took to making a scribble bot with simple tools. Kids can also make sculptures with wooden poles here, and new activities will be added every now and then. The scribble bot was the winner for my son though, and he was happy to bring his mechanically created artwork home with him. 


Future Lab

This gallery is fascinating, to say the least. On one end, kids can play with neon orbs in this darkened space. Across the gallery are screens projecting drawings and sketches made by the kids. I loved the idea of combining technology and creativity. Little Dude drew a rocket and then uploaded it on to the screen. Moreover, he could interact with the screen by touching it, which made it even more fun. 


Forts and Dens

In this gallery, kids can put their gross motor skills to full use. The wooden structures (mimicking tree houses) are perfect for building forts and dens and whatnot. The materials are all their for them to peruse. Using fabric, clips, and ropes, building a fort becomes a great exercise in teamwork and of course, creative play.


Toddlers

I didn't expect that my little one would have much to do at OilOli. He just turned a year old, and at present is happy cruising on all fours. I'm glad to say I was wrong! The toddlers area is filled with sensory play materials, Montessori skill building activities, and educational toys. There's even a climbing structure for babies and toddlers to enjoy. I loved this area so much because of the attention to detail given to every item here.


Cars and Ramps

Lego lovers will love this gallery. Now, Little Dude is a major fan of Lego and cars so this place was heaven to him. Kids can build their Lego cars here and test them on huge ramps. Thew ramps have been built impressively with obstacles, hoops, and curves. It was truly a delight to watch the kids' creations run on these ramps.


Water

Get your raincoats on for this one! Anyone who has kids knows how much they love playing in water. Well, in this gallery, they can play with water to their heart's content, and there's so much to do and learn. From floating balls to connecting pipes, and filling buckets - the activities are engaging to the curious mind. They can even make it rain in one section. What I found most creative is that there's a vintage car they van actually wash. Don't worry though, aprons are provided for the kids here.


Here's a snapshot of what Little Dude thought about OliOli on his first visit!

FINAL HD IZHAAN OLIOLI 10062017 - YouTube


What else do you need to know about OliOli?
The play museum opened last month, but it is so much more. It's a play space, a learning center, a workshop, and I feel it will evolve into much more than this, considering the dedication of it's owners who worked for two years to make this dream project come to life.

There is a lovely cafe serving healthy food and beverages. The kids will have attendants help them if need be, but ideally parents should accompany, of not just to take part in the fun! The galleries are spread over two levels. A baby changing and feeding area is available.

OliOli is open from 9 AM until 7 PM on weekdays, and until 9 PM on weekends. Tickets cost AED 120 for two hours, and AED 150 for two hours. Toddlers between 1-2 years pay half, and babies under 1 are free. Adults pay AED 40 for entry. Compared to the regular play spots, you may consider the uniqueness of this venture, and there is no doubt that children of all ages will enjoy it. This is a special experience that you must allow your kids to discover here in the UAE.

For more information, please visit the OliOli website.


We were invited to preview OliOli, but all views and opinions are sincerely my own.
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