Learning curve: Hanna Lenda’s educational games are a hit with parents and teachers

Lenda and her Tunisian husband prioritized instilling a love of their mother tongues in their children. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 June 2020

Learning curve: Hanna Lenda’s educational games are a hit with parents and teachers

  • The designer launched her Daradam brand to meet a need for fun educational resources in Arabic

DUBAI: They say necessity is the mother of invention, and for French-Hungarian entrepreneur Hanna Lenda, her endeavor to design educational and playful games in Arabic was sparked by the arrival of her firstborn son, Adam. Lenda and her Tunisian husband — who live in Nantes, France — prioritized instilling a love of their mother tongues in their children. 

“When Adam was born, I started to buy children’s books and games in English, Hungarian, French and Arabic — this was nearly 10 years ago,” Lenda explained to Arab News. “And I said to myself, ‘Why does all the Arabic stuff not look as cool as the other languages?’ Arabic is just as beautiful; it’s a language of poetry. This beautiful language doesn’t deserve to look outdated.” 

So, in 2016, Lenda — who has a master’s degree in product design — established Daradam (meaning ‘Adam’s home’), a publishing house for educational resources offering young minds a fresh take on the basics of the Arabic language and numerical system, as well as promoting Arabic culture — including the region’s architectural heritage — through visually engaging products. 




Lenda began crafting board and card games that are simple, educational and enjoyable. (Supplied)

Lenda interviewed a number of Arabic teachers, whose feedback was helpful to her design process. According to Lenda, they all expressed a concern that teachers of other languages had more resources, and that the limited options available to Arabic teachers were “not that fun.”

So Lenda began crafting board and card games that are simple, educational and enjoyable. “My desire was to create a product that, when the child sees it, he has the desire to touch and play with it,” she said. In her view, it was crucial that the games have simple rules, otherwise families and teachers would likely refrain from using them. 

One of her major criticisms of existing Arabic games is their “irrelevance.” Many were likely translated from English to Arabic decades ago. “Art is so beautiful in the Arab world,” said Lenda, who has visited Lebanon, Tunisia, and the UAE in recent years. “You can get inspiration from all the art there and create something that reflects the Arab world’s heritage. You don’t need to use a design coming from the other side of the world and translate it to Arabic.”  




Daradam (meaning ‘Adam’s home’) is a publishing house for educational resources. (Supplied)

For Daradam’s memory game “Arabicity,” for instance, Lenda invited the Tunisian artist Noha Habaieb to illustrate 12 iconic architectural settings from the Arab world, which are presented on a set of 24 wooden cards. Through Habaieb’s colorful and charming illustrations, the user is transported to the ruins of Petra in Jordan, the blue-washed roads of Morocco’s Chefchaouen and Beirut’s grand Sursock Museum, opened in 1961.

One of Daradam’s bestsellers is “Arabicubes,” in which each wooden block shows letters from the Arabic alphabet. Each side of a block presents all written forms of a specific letter, creating simple words and phrases when joined. 

“Vokalimat” is a board game designed to enrich children’s Arabic vocabulary, including feminine and masculine adjectives, while “Chkobba” — an upgraded attempt to teach children how to count — is inspired by a traditional Tunisian card game; each card is decorated with a mosaic and its parts are colored in according to the number on the card. 




For Lenda, Daradam is much more than an entrepreneurial venture. (Supplied)

“Arabicouples” came about through Lenda’s conversations with Arabic teachers who expressed a desire for resources that featured all 22 countries of the Arab league. Players must match pairs of cards containing illustrations of men and women wearing the traditional clothes of each country. Lenda’s research included scouring museum photographs for costume ideas.

Daradam’s products are now distributed in stores across the Middle East and Europe — engaging children from a refugee camp in Greece to areas of the Egyptian countryside. And they have turned out to be useful to curious adults and some non-Arabic speakers as well. 




Daradam’s products are now distributed in stores across the Middle East and Europe. (Supplied)

“In Lebanon, the family of an old lady who lost her capacity to talk bought her the ‘Arabicubes’ blocks. So, she communicates with them through the blocks,” Lenda said, adding that a French saleswoman once told her that a client bought the same product just because of its “beautiful design.”

It is clear that, for Lenda, Daradam is much more than an entrepreneurial venture. 

“We live in Europe, and before the coronavirus the media was speaking about terrorism, and my kids only heard negative stuff about (the Arab) world. It’s so bad,” she said. “We need to show this beautiful heritage to the kids. I want to show them the beauty and positive things of the region.” 


Birthday tributes for Halima Aden flood social media

Updated 20 September 2020

Birthday tributes for Halima Aden flood social media

DUBAI: Tributes from all over the world poured in for US-Somali model Halima Aden’s birthday this week. Models, actresses and designers have all taken to social media to wish the newly-minted 23-year-old a happy birthday. 

“Happy birthday, baby,” wrote Egyptian model and actress Salma Abu Deif on her Instagram Stories. “Love you always,” she added alongside a black-and-white snap of the two together.

Also taking to the photo-sharing platform to celebrate Aden on her big day was US designer Tommy Hilfiger, for whom the hijab-wearing catwalker recently starred in a campaign. 

Egyptian actress Salma Abu Deif wished the model a happy birthday. Instagram

American actress Larsen Thompson posted an adorable snap of the friends in an embrace, writing, “Happy birthday to my beautiful sis @Halima. You amaze me! Love and miss you!”

Meanwhile, US-Lebanese designer Eli Mizrahi posted an editorial from Aden’s instantly-iconic 2017 shoot with CR Fashion Book, captioning it: “Definition of a superstar! Happy birthday, @halima.”

“Thank you for all the birthday wishes,” posted the model on Instagram. “Alhamdulilah, 23 never felt so good.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thank you for all the birthday wishes alhamdulilah 23 never felt so good #jordanyear

A post shared by Halima (@halima) on

Many celebrities took to the comment section to share their well-wishes, including supermodels Shanina Shaik, Iman Abdulmajeed and singer Austin Mahone. 

Though Aden just turned 23, she has already achieved many career milestones.

The model, who grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp before migrating to Minnesota with her family aged seven, made headlines at the age of 19 when she was the first woman to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA Pageant, where she made the semifinals, in 2016.

Also taking to the photo-sharing platform to celebrate Aden on her big day was US designer Tommy Hilfiger. Instagram

She would go on to make her runway debut at Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 5 showcase during New York Fashion Week in 2017, becoming the first model to wear a hijab on the international runway.

 After her debut, she walked for a number of prestigious brands such as Moschino and Max Mara and was the first model to wear her hijab on the covers of major women’s magazines, such as Allure, British Vogue, Teen Vogue and Sports Illustrated. 

When she’s not turning heads on the runways or pages of renowned magazines, Aden, who was announced as a UNICEF ambassador in 2018, uses her voice and platform to advocate for children’s rights. 

But despite all of her exceptional achievements, it is clear that Aden is only getting started and is certain to be breaking boundaries for years to come.