As staying at home and avoiding crowds have become each resident’s civic duty to help stop the spread of Covid-19, the great outdoors has come to a standstill, but on the other hand, this “new world” created by the pandemic has become virtually abuzz with activities – everything from sports, arts, cooking, music and even parties are happening every beating minute in the virtual world.
Here are some suggestions for families to join the fun, while keeping a safe distance from others.
1. Expand your knowledge
There’s so much to learn and there’s no better time to get started than now. There are thousands of choices from services like Codecademy, which teaches programming language such as HTML and CSS, and Khan Academy, which has a broad range of subjects for young students, teachers and parents. Professionals and college students may also want to try Udemy or EdX, a Harvard and MIT-founded non-profit that offers pre-recorded lectures from 140 universities around the world.
For bookworms, Sharjah Public Libraries (spl.gov.ae) is offering free access to its digital library, featuring more than six million e-books, from April to June. Want hard-bound instead? Bookends.ae is a UAE buy-and-sell site where prices range from just Dh5 to Dh20.
Looking for book reading sessions for your kids instead? Malarvizhi Balaji, founder of Booktopia and the “Book Lady of Dubai”, is hosting online reading sessions. Check her out on Facebook (facebook.com/mybooktopia) and Instagram (@mybooktopiauae).
For those into poetry, Emirates Literature Foundation (elfdubai.org) has released its recording of the Identity Poetics session from the 2020 edition of the festival.
2. Learn to play an instrument or showcase your talent
There are sites that specialise in music lessons like Guitartricks.com and imusic-school, or you can download apps like Simply Piano (Android and iOS) and Yousician (Android, iOS, Windows and MacOS). Plus, there are tonnes of free stuff on YouTube. Many music groups have also started creating regular live online lessons for families, such as Benedetti Foundation (benedettifoundation.org/resources).
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola Arena is offering residents a chance to perform on its virtual stage. Just record your performance and upload the video tagging @cocacolaarena or the hashtag #BeLiveInDubai. The best ones will be showcased on its social media channels.
3. Sports, fitness and mind games
There are several apps to help fine tune your daily workouts at home like the Nike Training Club, 8Fit, Adidas Training by Runtastic and Home Training that are free to download on Android and iPhone. There are also yoga apps like Down Dog. Want something more competitive? Check out virtual sports events organised by the Dubai Sports Council (@DubaiSC). Among their recent events were the Virtual Tour Challenge and Marathon at Home.
For those into mental games, there’s been a huge boom in online chess on sites like Chess.com, Chess24 and Lichess.org. The recent Abu Dhabi Super Blitz Challenge had a prize fund of $10,000 and attracted the world’s best players. This Ramadan, the Dubai Chess and Culture Club (dubaichess.ae) is hosting the Allegiance to Zayed Online Blitz Tournament from May 2-4. With the Lichess app, players can also host their own online tournaments for free – great for private events with family and friends.
4. Learn new recipes
Cooking is a good therapy during quarantine. Sites like Allrecipes have thousands of recipes. Friday magazine’s online recipe catalogue (fridaymagazine.ae/food/recipes) is also a great resource. There are also plenty of live cooking demos online, including one streamed by Wagamama UAE on Instagram (@wagamamauae) every Wednesday, 6-7pm.
5. Make virtual visits to museums
Several museums now offer everything from virtual tours to online lectures. Google Art and Culture offers access to more than 500 museums around the world. For kids, there’s a virtual safari on the National Geographic Kids website (kids.nationalgeographic.com).
In the UAE, museums such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi (louvreabudhabi.ae) and Jameel Arts Centre have organised online activities, including virtual walkthroughs of art exhibitions. Websites like Museum With No Frontiers (www.museumwnf.org) offer access to historical and art collections, including contributions from the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation.
6. Learn a new language
Applications such as Duolingo, MemRise and Babbel (available on Android and Apple) are great tools to learn a new language. Depending on the app used, there are also daily vocabulary and grammar lessons using texts, images and sounds.