Families lined up in front of the check-in counters, waiting – not so patiently – for their tickets; it seems that the flight will be full… of kids. “Here are your boarding passes sir” says the lady behind the desk, in the Emirates uniform; “you may now proceed to the security control”. -“Dad, can I hold mine?” a little boy asks… Yes, we are on our way for a trip unlike any others; a trip to a place where children’s creativity is about to unfold and tested in real life situations.
I admit it, I was really nervous before getting on board and not because I have aerophobia, my “fear” had to do with our destination. Being a mother of two who loves her kids and enjoys spending time with them but at the same time hates in-door kids’ play parks where children shout and make a fuss, I thought that entering this kids’ paradise and staying with them for a couple of hours, would be living my hell… Well this time it wasn’t the case.
Kidzania, a kids’ indoor role-playing park, situated in Dubai mall is a two-storey micrograph of a town, a city designed and built on a small scale, which has nothing to envy from a grown-ups town. Its residents, the Kidzanians, have their own government, their own facilities, their own shopping outlets and of course their own currency.
Passing the security control off we get in. Our first stop: HSBC bank where kids can cash in their cheques in the town’s official currency: the kidzos. Adults can escort the younger children but are not supposed to enter the little shops and organizations, which left me and my husband like many other parents drooling outside the glass windows of the toy-size premises trying to sneak on the kids’ facial expressions to feel the same level of excitement that they did while they were engaged in the activities.
Since we got our money (or was it their money?), it was time for some earning or spending! Whereas boys are putting up their sleeves to get their hands busy on their first jobs (for which they are paid for), the girls are much more prone into spending their money in the Beauty Salon, buying groceries from Waitrose or making their own bracelets in the Jewellery Shop (typical women’s behavior a man could admit).
Being dragged by my kids towards the Flight Simulator Center we stop and stand aside on the pavement hearing the sound of sirens: the fire truck full of fire(little)men are on their mission to put off a fire close to town’s main square. Next to us a little fellow holding a TNT package is looking at his watch worrying he might be late for the package delivery.
After successfully completing his flight simulator course and being assigned his first flight, my son moves on to his new adventure: He wants to participate in a car race at Kidzania’s racing track, but to do so, first he needs to go to the Ministry of Transportation to issue his driving license and complete his driving skills’ test.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the town, my daughter is hired as a fashion model and after all the dress and make up she’s ready to strike a pose on camera. As for the fashion show that is scheduled for later in the day, she will have to learn how to walk as a model on the catwalk.
The clock strikes twelve and happy songs are heard from the Theater’s auditorium – balcony: Young performers freshly graduated from the Acting Academy are singing and dancing in front of the Kidzania’s Eternal Spirit Monument. The show is broadcasted live on the Kidzania television station and reporters are after the spectators for a statement on their impressions. The show was the lead story on Kidzania’s newspaper too as a major event.
Up and down, in and out we spent more than four hours in the amazing little town until the kids started feeling exhausted. Eventually they worked really hard: in these four hours they became pilots, television presenters, radio broadcasters, doctors, policemen, firemen, fashion models, construction workers, teachers, shoppers, cooks and still they hadn’t visited all of the places in the town. But the best part was that even we, their parents, despite the fact that we weren’t actively participating, we had an amazing time with our kids so that we didn’t feel the time fly by.
With the no-kids-zone movement on the rise in many parts of the world, Kidzania might the answer to all those who encourage the “brat ban”. Malaysia Airlines has banned babies from many of their first class cabins urging other major airlines to do the same. Restaurants, hotel resorts, movie theaters, and even outdoor areas in compounds are turning into child-free zones. Whereas I don’t believe kids should necessarily follow their parents everywhere, this new type of racism towards the Lilliputian citizens of the world if given bigger dimensions, could actually point straight to their parents isolating them and classifying them as lower class citizens.
I will never forget my experience at Tilly’s (not a pub, not a first class restaurant, but a simple coffee-shop in the Jawad Dome Bahrain) one very hot summer noon few years ago, when having to wait in the area for an hour with my then two and a half years old, I stopped by for us to get a refreshment. Even if the coffee shop was completely empty and my daughter is a sweet well-behaved little girl, we were kicked out by the waitress who claimed their no-kids-zone policy. Needless to say I never visited the shop ever since as a matter of principle. But I admit, it was a huge relief for me when, as a retaliation, I threw a coin in the Kidzania’s Independence Fountain….