Ill-fated Qatar mall nursery had licence to operate

May 31, 2012

The nursery at the ill-fated Villagio Mall was licenced to conduct six activities, including serving as a playroom for children, a spokesperson has said.

“The crèche (nursery) had secured the approval of the Ministry of Business and Trade and the Rayyan Municipality to carry out its activities,” a spokesperson told Gulf Times, a local daily.

Reports in Qatar claimed that the Gympanzee nursery was operating without the required permit.

However, the spokesperson said that the centre was licenced under commercial registration number 37332 and that its activities included serving as a playroom, taekwondo learning centre, and selling of sports apparel, beverages and children’s toys.

The Rayyan municipality in 2008 granted the Villaggio Mall a permit to operate the nursery for two years and the licence was renewed after its initial period expired, the spokesperson told the daily.



In an interview with Doha-based Gulf Times in 2009, Eman Al Kuwari, owner of the Gympanzee, said that she was determined to give something back to the community and set up the day care centre in the mall.

“My inspiration for this project are my children,” she said. “As we all know that children are full of energy and unlike in the US where I grew up, there are not many places [in Doha] where they can fully play and exercise in a constructive way,” the mother of three boys told the Qatari daily.

Opened in January 2009 for children from two to 12, Gympanzee takes a comprehensive approach to the child’s development as it strives to provide children with a fun, clean, exciting and stimulating environment that meets their mental and physical needs.

“When mothers need to attend to their shopping or house chores, they can drop their children with us to look after while they take care of their engagements. We try to educate them emotionally, physically and culturally in addition to what they learn within the school environment,” she said.

On offer at Gympanzee are activities such as kidzart, soft play, musical games, potty training, rock climbing, storytelling and interactive physical activities.

The centre also organises field trips for nurseries and schools, private parties, art classes in compounds and after-school activities for private schools, she said.

There is also an activity called Gympanzee mum for children below two years to develop their art skills with the help of their mothers.

Al Kuwari, who holds a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from a university in Washington, said five professional teachers were looking after the children as they combined learning, exercise and entertainment.

“At Gympanzee, we try to build personality of the children by allowing them do things on their own and that is why we are not encouraging nannies to come around when the kids are with us,” she said.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand couple who lost their two-year-old triplets in the mall blaze have expressed deep gratitude for the people who offered them comfort and support.

In a letter to “the people of the State of Qatar and friends around the world”, Martin and Jane Weekes offered “a special thanks to all the people of Qatar, to His Highness the Heir Apparent Shaikh Tamim Al Thani who took the time to visit us at our home, to the brave emergency people, two of whom gave their lives to save others, our friends, the people who have called and texted, the hundreds of people who came to Aspire and gave us strength – Qatari and expat standing side by side together as one; so many nationalities bonded together makes a true community.”

Martin, a senior adviser at Qatar government agency who moved to Doha in 2007, and his wife said that their children, Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes “were true Kiwi kids.”

“Born prematurely in New Zealand, after eight weeks in intensive care, they moved to their new home in Qatar. In two short years, we travelled the world together, inseparable as a family. We went to Greece, UAE, Thailand, Bali, Hong Kong & of course again to New Zealand but always back to Doha, their family home,” they said.

“Everywhere Lillie, Jackson and Willsher went, people we did not know would come up to us and small crowds would gather. As parents this was at times amusing and at times quite scary (as we wanted to protect our children) but the triplets always made people so happy it seemed unfair not to share the happiness they brought with others.”




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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