UAE: Emirati author creates interactive 'scratch and scan' guidebook for residents and tourists

Upon scanning a QR code, readers are taken to a page which gives them several selected options under that category, with a focus on places that are off the beaten track


Lamya Tawfik

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Published: Thu 22 Dec 2022, 6:45 PM

Last updated: Fri 23 Dec 2022, 5:00 PM

Kashta is an Emirati word that means ‘outing’. It is also the name of a unique adventure book which is the brainchild of an Emirati woman passionate about exploring the UAE.

Aisha Al Fahim, 25, an Abu Dhabi resident, said that her book 'Kashta' is about creating memories while exploring the UAE and targets both residents – local and expat – as well as tourists. The book, printed on recycled paper, doesn’t work like a conventional guidebook. It is divided into several categories and has a scratch section which reveals a QR code.

Upon scanning the QR code, readers are taken to a page which will be regularly updated, and which gives them several selected options under that category, with a focus on places that are off the beaten track. “The idea came during Covid when there were restrictions and we couldn’t go to Dubai, so people had to figure out what we had in Abu Dhabi,” she said.

There are several categories in the Kashta such as cultural attractions, sports, masterclasses, nature excursions and experiences, and in all of them, there are several hidden gems. “While looking for the places, I [conducted] extensive research and spoke to many people,” she said, adding that some pages feature a palm tree which indicate that this is an outdoor activity suitable for the cooler weather.

Although the concept includes digital features like QR codes, it also has a nod to the nostalgic days of travel journaling. The pages have boxes to allow readers to ‘post’ their pictures, in the pre-social media sense of the word, and a place for them to write their memories.

“Some people have Polaroids and others chose to print out their pictures. Yes, you can swipe through your phone, but it’s not going to be as meaningful as seeing your pictures physically. Think about old photo albums; we wanted the book to have tangible elements for memories,” she said.

Once people start using the book, no book is going to be the same as the other, she said. “Everyone will have a story to tell. You will see the city through the eyes of the user. We have the same book, but at the end of the day we write our own stories,” she said, adding that she can’t wait to see the complete books of the people who bought them.

Born and raised in Abu Dhabi, Aisha studied Social Research and Public Policy at New York University Abu Dhabi where she currently works as a researcher. She explained that she really cares about the UAE, and that she wanted to show people sides of the country that they may not be aware of.

“People pay thousands of dirhams to travel abroad, and [spend money] on hotels in cities around the world to explore them. You live in a house and you’re in a country that you [haven't explored], so why not see what the city has to offer?” she asked.

The Abu Dhabi edition is just the first book in a series of books that Aisha wants to work on. By early 2023, the Dubai edition should also be out. She is putting all her research skills at work to expand 'Kashta', to perhaps include different emirates and possibly even Arabic editions as well.

“There might be one that covers all of the UAE, like a road trip guide. I also feel that this concept could work for other countries in the GCC. It started out as a small project, but I can see it growing,” she said, adding that the response for her book has encouraged her to expand.

Aisha said that the book is important to her because when she was a student, she had to show some international students the city, and realised that she became a tourist in her own country. “I realised then that the places which visitors go to aren’t the same places that Emiratis go to,” she said.

Through this book, Aisha hopes that Emiratis can also explore their own country and discover it. “Most of us like to go to restaurants or coffee shops or the malls. What kind of memories are you creating? What memories will you reminisce about? How cool the sushi was?” she asked, adding that she hopes 'Kashta' helps create memories for people and helps spread happiness.

At the moment people can buy the book, which sells for Dh150, through Kashta’s Instagram page.


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