What’s On teamed up with hygiene giants Fine to share snapshots and stories of ordinary Dubai-based families who are living in an extraordinary time…

We are living through an astonishing moment in history as the coronavirus pandemic impacts hugely on people across the globe.

Families in Dubai have experienced stringent curfews, with some people finding their jobs on pause (or redundant), while others have had to adapt to working from home. On top of that many mums and dads have had to tackle home schooling and many of life’s unpredictable challenges.

Through it all, hygiene and sanitation has been a number one priority for all. Along with other important behaviours like physical distancing, thoroughly washing hands often has been essential to controlling the pandemic.

In partnership with Fine, we asked families, couples and housemates to step forward and share their lockdown experiences with us, and in return we offered socially-distant photographs taken at their front doors in an effort to record these unusual times.

Here are their stories…

Nadia Chanandin and Zeus

“Zeus has adjusted to this year much better than me. He enjoys the lazy life after all. I started the lockdown being productive, doing all sorts of crazy physical challenges from 10,000 kettle bell swings in 10 days, to climbing the height of Kilimanjaro up and down the staircase of my building. I was all about making the time count, reading books, studying and taking courses. I thought that the only way to override my anxiety was by not resting. But soon enough, I’d hit exhaustion. I went from being superhuman to attending all my team calls in my PJs. I had to motivate my team (about 30 people across different countries) when I couldn’t even motivate myself. I had to tap into some serious inner strength to push on. Through it all, Zeus has been there; my trusty companion comforting me on tough days and putting a smile on my face, and I cannot imagine how much harder this all would have been without him to love and be loved by.”

Osman Zin AlAbdin and son Adam 

“Our lockdown has been both a breeze and unbelievably hard. When curfew was first announced, I decided to pull out some things from storage that I hadn’t seen for years. I dusted off my Nintendo 64 and old cassette player to show Adam these retro gadgets but also for my own fun. I used the old cassettes as background music to my yoga practice. I also used the time to be more vigilant with my practice. That part was wonderful. But then, I got slapped with the home-schooling. Google classrooms. iPad work. Zoom classes. Printing off hundreds of pages of a school syllabus. We don’t even have an iPad or a printer! I found myself completely out of my depth trying to teach Adam French, English, Arabic, religion, grammar, math, moral studies, social studies, science – it was chaos. So yeah, if you put me back in lockdown I’m all for it. Just please, keep me away from home-schooling.”

Claire Harris, Dean, Vula and Noa Murphy

“’Look mum and dad, it’s like a beautiful dream’. That’s what our four-year old daughter said the first time we left the house after lock down. We were on Al Qudra roundabout. Not exactly the Whitsundays, but to her it was everything. It was such a beautiful moment and something we’ll always cherish as a reminder to appreciate the small and simple things in life. Of course, much of life has changed. We spend a lot of time teaching our kids the importance of washing their hands, and trying to explain how masks help minimalise the spread of germs. That’s not an easy feat when you’re speaking to little ones. It’s been as much a learning experience for us as parents as it has for them. But we’ve learnt that being available, present and having real conversations with family and friends has been key for guidance and support. As things open, watching the kids find excitement in what was previously normal has been amazing as we discover the world anew.”

The Sankar family

“We became grandparents during this lockdown – first-time grandparents. Our little granddaughter was born just before the curfews, and now she is six months old. We’ve been watching her grow remotely, mainly over Zoom calls, and seen how she is changing in front of our very eyes, from a tiny mite who barely could open her eyes, to a little laughing bundle who is sitting and crawling and actually smiling at us on camera. We are longing to see her and cuddle her, and are waiting for better times. So this lockdown has not all been bad – these are very precious moments that we’ll never forget.”

Allie, Chad, Thea and Heath McLaughlin

“Entertaining a toddler at home for days on end is a challenge – especially when you’re experiencing the emotional rollercoaster of pregnancy at the same time. We took for granted just how beautiful and amazing the teachers are at our child’s nursery – how much work they put in and how they play such a pivotal part in shaping our child’s life. I think my A-HA moment during lock down was realising just how important the social aspects of health are. How just simply hugging someone fills my cup, and not being able to be hugged by another person definitely took a toll on my mental status. Combine that with the daily sense of worry – will we be OK? Will our families in Canada be OK? – and it’s tough. We’re living a sort of Groundhog Day, unable to fill our cups. On the other hand, I felt inspired. The community came together. There were more phone calls than ever before. There were more communications with family and friends through Zoom sessions. It’s allowed us, for the first time ever, to slow down, appreciate the small things, and truly appreciate family.”

The Magbiray family

“In March, I gave birth to my baby 10 weeks premature. He had to stay in NICU for 79 days. So, I spent most of lockdown going back and forth to visit him and bring breastmilk and baby diapers until he was discharged. I had a month spent at home taking care of him on my own without the help of any of our parents or relatives, discovering the wonders of motherhood, and navigating the roller-coaster of being a first-time mum. While it was exceptionally challenging, my relationship with my husband has also grown stronger. He has been a great support system to me and our baby boy.”

The Manson family, Maricel Narciso and Flash 

“At first, all of us being together all the time was quite exciting. But that quickly turned to frustration and fear. We received news of friends ill in the UK after contracting the virus and that made us realise the severity of the situation. I could see it taking its toll on the kids and I knew we had to do something to bring life back into the house. Inspired by friends, we contacted UAE Little Angels shelter and suddenly we had nine dogs in the house: Husky Nina and her eight four-day old puppies. Nina had been through a lot of abuse, but after some TLC, she came to trust the whole family. The dogs became our family mission. We made charts for them, named them, and we couldn’t have done any of this without our incredible nanny Maricel. As those husky pups grew, the play areas had to be built bigger and higher. They’d love to escape and run around the house, hiding in all sorts of places, while we ran around after them. It was crazy but incredibly fun and the blood, swear, tears and endless cleaning up after them was so worth it. Now all of them, including Nina, have gone to loving homes. Well, all except one – our beautiful Flash.”

Hristina Pavlovska and husband Ahmed Kassem

“I’m a teacher here and teaching from home this year has been both super challenging and fun. It gave me time to reflect on all that was happening and made me work and think more creatively. On the other hand, my husband was working outside the house every day and I found that a little scary. We put in place a lot of precautionary measures to keep everything sanitised, from wiping the floor every single day, and using sanitiser on everything, even our shoes. My husband has been so incredibly supportive.  He’s helped me record some beautiful educational videos for my students. This time spent together has brought a lot of laughter, and brought us even closer than before. Even during a scary time there is hidden beauty in it.”

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Doorstep Diaries: Share your lockdown stories for a special family photo shoot

Nadine Manning, son Tiago and Juliette Albuquerque

“On July 21, the storage facility that had all my belongings in burnt down. I had everything in there from my four-bedroom home in Mirdif, which I’d lived in for almost two decades. I had moved into my mother’s one-bedroom apartment with my six-year-old son Tiago, our nanny Juliette, the dog, two tortoises and two geckos to ride out the Covid storm waiting for the events industry, which I work in, to pick up again. And then the fire happened. Now we’re left with a few suitcases, I now have no job, no house, no belongings, and no school registered for my son. But I have faith. I have family and friends, and I’m determined not to stress about what I cannot change. I believe that events will return and we can rebuild our lives, because after 19 years in Dubai, this is my home and I’m not ready to leave just yet.”

Claris Reyes

“From a beautiful white wedding gown to kitchen apron, face guard, masks and gloves. I had to cancel my wedding, which was meant to be in May and, instead I took to baking. If lockdown has provided one thing, it’s made me discover a new skill and passion for baking. I’ve probably baked more than a thousand breads, buns and baked goods for my friends. I’ve even created a YouTube channel where I share these easy recipes. This pandemic has sent me on a roller coaster of emotions, from denial and sadness, to excitement and hope. In the end, it taught me how to adapt by finding the good out of the bad…”

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All images in the Doorstep Diaries series were beautifully captured by UAE-based photographer Mirta Ferencic.