Friday, April 12, 2013

Dashing Hamra!

There's a new reviewer in town,
And her name is Mia.

She has been taking mommy to all sorts of places, trying new things and meeting beautiful new friends. And since "sharing is caring", and let us be honest, stingy is just plain ugly, we will share with you every new finding we love. 

Now we are well-known for being a little picky because mommy would rather avoid traffic and frustrating car rides with two (insane) babies strapped in car-seats so we are exploring Beirut on stroller. Or rather, discovering whatever gem we can find walking distance from home

It is not easy and Jad is getting the short end of the stick because our twin stroller cannot fit on most sidewalks in Lebanon (when there is a sidewalk) and since we end up most of the times slaloming between cars, on the road (!) because as we know, sidewalks are in fact either just plain stairs or an extension of a coffee shop or most frequently a parking space for some classy, decent driver. So the small umbrella stroller seems the safest as it can fit almost anywhere and when on the actual road, does not take too much space when we need to fit next to a car (!) which means poor little Jad ends up at home. But it appears this arrangement is not all that bad as he gets some alone quality time with his grand-mother and does not have to worry about Mia preying on his toys!
This time, we have Cupcake Box's gorgeous mommy-to-be Randa to thank for a wonderful new discovery only minutes away from home! 

She tipped us on Dash Club, a conveniently located play area and library that opened only four months ago at the heart of Hamra.

Yes, a play area and library with the nicest "reading corner" in town!

Dash Club is located on Basra street in Jeanne D'Arc near Mayflower (map) and Napoleon (map) hotels (very well-known in Hamra so if you need directions, just ask about these two landmarks). The minute you walk in that quiet neighborly street, you cannot miss the lovely purple shades that shelter a cute outdoors sitting space for mommies and daddies who need some air or (tsk tsk) a cigarette.

The two storey venue is designed with cozy and warm colors and furniture, generously might I add, and this quality is found all around the place, especially in the library corner where the owner, May Kabrit, placed her own personal childhood books. You will find in there original old Martine's and Bibliothèque Rose treasures from our old days which my nostalgic eyes immediately spotted and fell in love with!

Step in and you will understand "reading" is a favorite activity here as even the venue arrangement gives books a distinguished space on the ground floor. The library is located right up front and on the side, books in Arabic are displayed on prominent shelves on the largest wall in the room, available to purchase as well. I do love when small businesses get involved in raising awareness about educational issues such a literacy and promote and support local talents by offering them a space to showcase their work.

Also on the ground floor, is located an arts and crafts space for those children who would like to give their creativity a little freedom on paper, wood or ceramic. Absolutely lovely! And the "raw" pieces are so affordable you might be inclined to launch a business selling your kid's artwork!

The vast underground floor is wide open with some specifically designed sections: a play area for the younger ones with a small slide, a swing, a pool of plastic balls, a scooter and a bike. Several other toys such as dolls, strollers, stuffed animals are also available for those who enjoy them. The second area is reserved for arts and the drawing classes also offered at  Dash Club. On the side, a stage is ready for plays and puppet shows (wonderful idea!) and finally there also is a space with one white and one black boards. This floor is ideal for birthdays and all sorts of group celebrations and activities. Dash Club's brochure lists "Science Lab" among its offerings including a photo showing children undertaking some sort of experiment, how cool is that?

Last and certainly not least, I cannot but mention the amazing staff which includes the brilliant May Kabrit, mumtrepreneur-owner of  Dash Club as well as the amazing Lamis Nouaihed who holds a university degree in Childhood Education from the Lebanese American University. I should also mention drawing classes are delivered by an art instructor who specializes in teaching children.

Mia is not very sociable with strangers and although she does not cry when meeting new people, she does not take to them immediately either. She needs a few encounters before she agrees to even smile, let alone interact with someone (even children).

So you can imagine how impressed I was when I saw her leave me and take Lamis by the hand to go and play only minutes following our arrival! They say children have a sixth sense when it comes to people who love or hate them. I guess it is fair to say Lamis passed Mia's test with flying colors! So much in fact, I felt confident enough to leave them by themselves as I ran an errand for about half an hour, something I had never done at any play area before. The only place I ever left Mia alone with a stranger was at her nursery. And even this took about two weeks to work out! I later learned from May that Lamis also works with special needs children which added to my respect and admiration. It takes tremendous patience and most importantly a kind heart and a giving soul to work through the difficulties of special needs and only those who truly love children have the courage to venture on that road.

We came back home with some drawings, coloring, hand-paint, face-paint (which Mia insisted on doing herself) and collage. Not bad for a first day, right?

You can trust we will be back very soon so do not hesitate to buzz us if you want to join ;)

Dash Club's opening hours are from 2pm to 7pm every day but as summer is approaching, morning hours will also become available. For more information on opening hours, special activities and rates, call 03704104.

Mamma Mia

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