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Travelling with Kids: book inspires all-new adventures

The Christmas gift of a book titled Arabia and the World has rendered our travel list unrecognisable.

We spent most of December feverishly outlining our travel plans for 2012. As of December 24, this is what we had: Beijing in spring; Thailand and Vietnam or Tokyo in summer; and Rome in winter. Calvin, however, is now demanding that we scrap the entire list, all because of his brand new atlas.

Titled Arabia and the World, it was a Christmas gift from one of my colleagues, and an instant favourite among all the other gifts my 10-year-old received, which include a portable Monopoly set and other travel-related stuff. These items, however, lie forgotten on a shelf somewhere in his room.

I can see why he always has his nose in the atlas: it's a beautiful book, its glossy pages rich with illustrations, photographs and dozens of interesting facts. (For example, did you know that selling a date palm in Morocco used to be unlawful because it was a source of food for the family?)

So, thanks to this acquisition, our travel list is now unrecognisable. Calvin has titled it "Our Adventures in Arabia",and it reads - somewhat stream-of-consciousness - like this: "Libya - because it's the only country in the world whose flag used to consist of a single colour and no emblem and there's a volcano in Waw Al Namus with a crater full of colourful lakes. And in Morocco I want to stay in Marrakech and meet a snake charmer. Tunisia is the most beautiful country in the world, says Latifa, although the south is very hot and dry." (Latifa is my Tunisian hairdresser who tells Calvin wondrous tales while doing my hair).

But before we turn our minds to tackling all these places (Calvin, of course, has given no thought to insignificant details such as political unrest), we've got to visit Umm Al Qaiwain and Ras Al Khaimah, the two emirates we haven't yet explored.

First up is Umm Al Qaiwain because its "Sinniyah Island is home to 15,000 pairs of Great Cormorants, the third largest colony in the world and the biggest in the UAE". My son, who loves birds, can't think of a better way to kick off a year of travel than by spending a whole day watching these large, noisy creatures and their screaming babies.

This whole "Arabian Adventures" affair is beginning to grow on us, and we've started checking airfares, hotel room rates and climate (both political and otherwise). Calvin, meanwhile, has left us to the organising and has already packed his knapsack. I'm not allowed to rummage through the contents, but I think I know what's inside: an airline guide, an old hat, several pairs of socks, two toy animals - an owl and a snow leopard cub - and an atlas that probably will accompany us on all our adventures henceforth.

Arabia and the World (Jerboa Books), Dh75, available at Jashanmal Bookstore, Abu Dhabi Mall.


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