Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1168, (10 - 16 October 2013)
Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Issue 1168, (10 - 16 October 2013)

Ahram Weekly

The ideal day out

Many parents wish they could have more time away from their children, a wish that may now be coming true at Kidzania-Cairo, writes Nesmahar Sayed

Al-Ahram Weekly

“Que sera sera, whatever will be will be, the future not ours to see, Que sera sera.” These words, taken from a song often sung by young people, may well be true. But at Kidzania in Cairo, the future seems less gloomy, with children aged from four to 14 finding that the new theme park more than meets their dreams.
“I am a fashion designer, like I have always wanted to be,” said 12-year-old Jana Sherif, trying on different professions at Kidzania-Cairo. After trying out many jobs on her first visit, Sherif decided she wanted to go there again and try others. She was told about the park by her mother, and she went there in the company of her family. Sherif enjoyed the day out very much.
In addition to trying out being a fashion-designer, Sherif also tried being a worker in an ice-cream and chips factory, a cashier at a supermarket, a customer service agent at a communications company, and a worker in a beauty salon. “I’d love to go there again and again. To have a Kidzania passport is a great idea,” Sherif added, happily.
Housewife Mervat Wasfi decided to take her daughter to Kidzania-Cairo after attending its earlier soft opening. “It sounded interesting, and when I went with my daughters I found the place was ideal for kids as it accompanies education with fun and this is something we don’t have enough of in Egypt.”
Tarek Zidan, “governor” of Kidzania-Cairo, was first attracted to bringing the idea to Egypt some years ago when he went with his family to Indonesia and took his kids to Kidzania-Jakarta. “I listen carefully to my children, especially on matters of personal development,” Zidan said. “My son was very happy about going to this place, and I felt there had been a big change in his personality and dreams about his future and what he wanted to do when he grows up afterwards.”
At that time, Zidan was facing a difficult financial situation at the company he owned with some friends. “On my return from Jakarta, I told my friends that there was a great project out there for Egyptian kids but that we would need LE25 million to take advantage of it,” he recalls. His friends were astonished at first, but after studying the idea they agreed to help find the money. Zidan believed that since his son had had the opportunity to enjoy the Kidzania experience abroad, other Egyptian kids should be able to enjoy it at home.
“We did not invent the idea, but we learned from the owners and founders of the franchise how to do it,” Zidan said, adding that for him the reason why the formula is so important is because those people who succeed in life are the ones who have had dreams when they were children.
According to the Kidzania website, the company is an award-winning concept that is recognised worldwide. It was first established in 1996 in Mexico as the first edutainment park only for children. It is designed to be like a real city, providing role-playing opportunities in different jobs and professions for kids from the age of four to 14.
Kidzania officially opened in Cairo on 17 September, and it is strategically located at the Cairo Festival City and covers over 7,800 m2 across two floors. According to Zidan, it is expected to receive between 750,000 and one million visitors in its first year.
Xavier Lopez Ancona, the founder of Kidzania, told Al-Ahram Weekly that Kidzania reinforces the values of giving, respecting others and making positive contributions to society in children. “The activities kids perform in the city develop their skills, and they help kids to do something useful instead of wasting time watching television or playing computer games without any human interaction,” he said.
According to Zidan, the city has an amazing night-time lay out where children can see the stars and the street lamps being lighted. “It’s the only place in the world where kids take team work to a new level. They have the freedom to go out at night and enjoy their time alone,” he explained.
Ancona’s current position is as president and global chief executive officer of Kidzania. He believes that the difficult political situation Egypt has been passing through since the 25 January Revolution makes Cairo the ideal place for a new Kidzania franchise. It is a place where children can escape the tensions and explore their ambitions outside the family structure, he said. The business partners of Kidzania have been chosen for their good reputation, good quality products and trusted situations, he added. “Because we are not experts and children want real brands, our business partners are our main support in introducing real life to the kids.”
Although a franchise is normally the same in every country in which it operates, Ancona explained that each country has something unique that belongs to its culture or its history. For instance, in Kidzania-Mexico children make tacos, and in Kidzania-Japan they make sushi. In Kidzania-Cairo, Ancona said that the staff were working with passion, commitment and energy, notably by teaching children how to give back to society through volunteer work at the park’s “Food Bank”.
“While all the jobs are sophisticated in Kidzania-Cairo, in Mexico there are cleaning companies, shoe-shine men, and magazine sellers, and the kids are invited to do these jobs as well,” he said.
According to Ancona, the park’s trainers are one of the main reasons for its success around the world. “They are chosen through one-on-one interviews, and there are many check-ups regarding security clearances and training. All this means that parents can feel secure about leaving their children with them.” The main income for the Kidzania workers is the price of the entrance tickets, which cost LE130 per child. “In the city itself, the kids pay in kidzos, the Kidzania currency,” Ancona said.
The park started in Egypt after the 30 June Revolution, and this meant that there were obstacles to be overcome in terms of the fuel crisis and curfew. However, Zidan said that the Ministry of Investment had helped out by giving special tax rates on some of the equipment.
Kidzania-Cairo is just the beginning of a chain that will eventually include Kidzania-Alexandria and Kidzania-6 October city. Many Egyptians are eager to go and enjoy this exciting new experience, Wasfi said. Meanwhile, others, like 14-year-old Malak Mokhles, who decided to be a journalist after visiting Kidzania in Dubai, is now negotiating with her mother to visit the Cairo branch during the coming Eid Al-Adha vacation to repeat her earlier experiences.

Kidzania vocabulary

Some definitions of the words used at Kidzania:

Kid: child — zany: cool — ania: a Latin suffix meaning “land of”; kids are citizens in Kidzania, while adults are just tourists.
Currency: the kidzo.
Main letters: k and z.
Flag colour: red and yellow.
Right-keepers: these are responsible for the right in Kidzania.
Urbano: responsible for the right to know in Kidzania.
Beetop: responsible for the right to create.
Chika: a girl responsible for the right to share.
Vita: responsible for the right to care, respect and protect.
Bacho: a puppy responsible for the right to play and enjoy.
The first lesson: you have to work.
Kidzania Gate: only in Mexico.

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