x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Colouring in the blanks

Meet Saeed Al Mansoori, an Emirati researcher and father-of-six, who has created colouring books that teach children about the country's history and culture.

Saeed Ibrahim Al Mansoori with his children. Razan Alzayani / The National
Saeed Ibrahim Al Mansoori with his children. Razan Alzayani / The National

As a father of six, Saeed Ibrahim Al Mansoori knows a thing or two about what tickles the imagination of children. Colouring books and crayons, for instance, are favourites in the Al Mansoori ­household.

Inspired to create something enjoyable and educational for his own kids, the Umm Al Quwain-based heritage researcher has produced two illustrated colouring books featuring images and symbols relevant to the UAE, such as the palm tree and the country’s flag.

He was concerned that in the age of iPads and Xboxes, his children and the next generation of Emiratis are slowly detaching themselves from the UAE’s history and culture.

“Sometimes, I see my sons playing violent games on the iPad,” he says. “I at least want to see them playing Emirati games, which unfortunately don’t exist.”

Al Mansoori’s first book is the 45-page Palm Tree, A Symbol of Our Heritage.

“Many children do not know the parts of the palm, its benefits and how their forefathers made a living out of this gold,” says the 41-year-old Al Mansoori. “It is an integral part of the UAE’s heritage and ­identity.”

The second book, Our Heritage, comprises 47 pages of the UAE’s rulers and symbols, each with an accompanying description.

The two books are yet to be available in the market, but Al Mansoori, who used to work in the public relations industry, says he’s currently trying to reach the Ministry of ­Education.

“I want the ministry to see my work and use it in schools,” he says.

Al Mansoori clarified that he is not expecting any monetary benefit from his work. “All I want is the young generation to be well-versed with their country,” he says.

“I spent so much time to perfect my work because I want to give back to this country, nothing more.”

It took him two years to finish the colouring books along with his illustrator, Abu Al Zahra, who’s originally from Syria.

Al Mansoori was careful in making sure that the drawings were easy to learn, even for children in primary school. He says that he plans to convert the colouring books into an iPad app.

The project, according to Al Mansoori, was inspired by the late ruler Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, “who constantly reminded his nation to preserve their national­ ­identity”.

“Our children are acquainted with western icons such as Mickey Mouse, but are negligent about their own,” he says. “There is nothing wrong with taking what is good and advanced from the outside world, but we need to be the first people to preserve our national identity.”

It has to begin inside the home, he says. “Our country does its best to support us in all aspects of our lives. We can’t expect the government to knock on our doors to remind us to preserve our past.”

• Al Mansoori plans to give away copies of the two colouring books to schoolchildren on the UAE’s National Day on December 2