All This Chat About Mamas – How About The Dads?! We’re Dedicating A Monthly Post To The Papas Out There..
As most Dubai expat stories goes, Mustafa Koita’s is pretty familiar. He arrived in Dubai 10 years ago thinking it would be a quick ‘pit stop’ but hasn’t looked back since and is now one of the best known names in organic produce – we call him Dubai’s ‘milk man’ for bringing delicious Koita organic milk to our desert city. With 2 gorgeous girls and a super cute son, Mustafa chats to us about everything from the moment he found out his wife was first pregnant to his funniest parenting memory, how he hopes his daughters will never date until they’re married and much more in between.
Can you tell us a bit about your background? What brought you to Dubai?
My parents migrated to the United States in the 60s and I was born in Princeton, New Jersey. As a first generation Indian in the U.S., my father always referred to me as a “coconut” – brown on the outside and white on the inside! I did all my schooling and University in the United States and then moved to New York City to start my career in IT and Security.
After about 4 years of living in NYC I then shifted to London, UK where I learned how to speak proper English – as my British Friends always teased me! Soon after our first child Serena was born in the UK, my wife and I then shifted to Dubai (almost 10 years ago now!) where we have lived ever since. Like many of our friends, we thought Dubai would be a quick ‘pit stop’ for a few years, but then the energy and ‘Dubai way of life’ grew into us, and we now call Dubai our home.
How many kids do you have – what are their names and ages? And your wife’s name too please!
Maria, a.k.a. The Boss
Serena, The Princess, 9 years
Danyal, Our lil Devil, 6 years
Sophia, Spoiled Mini-Princess, 2 years
Our two older kids go to American School of Dubai which we are really happy with. Sophia just started at the ‘Homegrown Eco-Friendly Nursery’ and we absolutely love their staff and unique philosophy.
How did you find out your wife was pregnant?
Well I found out a few times in life! Funnily enough even though we were living in London at the time, we learned about our first while we were visiting Dubai on holiday! Maybe it was a sign. I remember Maria was feeling sick, and I ran to a local hotel pharmacist. After he heard the symptoms he suggested some pain medication, and oh by the way, also a pregnancy test kit. It took me a few seconds to realize what was happening! As soon as we found out we were overcome with joy! That night we ended up staying in, ordering cheese burgers from room service and watching a movie!
How did you handle the news?
Each time we were overcome with joy…each child has been a blessing and although there are always going to be the ‘pregnancy pains’ we forget about everything when our kids give us ‘that look’….I’m a sucker all the time. Notably I joke that my daughters seems to always come with financial rewards! When Serena was born, I had a great year at work. Then when my son Danyal was born, we had the stock market meltdown and Lehman Brothers collapsed. Finally when Sophia was born I had just started Koita Foods.
How did you choose your kids names?
We argued about our first daughter’s name alot. I wanted ‘Zahra’ and my wife wanted ‘Serena’. So when Maria went into labor we were in a Black Cab rushing to the hospital in London; we were still undecided and still debating the name! Then when Maria started going thru the ‘real labor process’ in front of me; I quickly realized I had NO business telling her what to name our first child….so she quickly won the battle and hence our first daughter is named Serena! After the first ordeal we quickly learned to pre-agree way ahead of the deliveries for other two kids!
Where were your children born and how hands-on were you during the birth process?
Serena was born in London at the Portland Hospital. One thing we loved about the UK was the ‘mid-wives’ – a concept that we don’t really have in the US. British Midwives were so supportive and extremely helpful. I was also very hands on and certainly changed my fair share of diapers too! However, I have to admit when we moved to Dubai, help was much more affordable and for Danyal and Sophia I found myself changing less diapers!
What do you hope your kids get/don’t get from you?
That’s a tough question. I certainly hope they get my passion, positive energy and someday I hope they can also take the helm of Koita Foods and elevate it to the next level. In regards to thing’s I DO NOT want them to get from me…well that would be my lack of patience (we always want everything yesterday at Koita). In addition Maria tells me I always worry too much!
What’s your favorite part of your parenting routine?
It’s honestly when I can break the routine, which is usually when we go on holiday! The last holiday we took was to the US and Italy. When the phones are off and we have everyone’s undivided attention, the Koita’s are at our best.
The kids are now at the age where they have full blown personalities (and egos to match!) which Maria and I are really enjoying right now.
Who plays good cop and bad cop between you and your wife?
My wife would definitely be the bad cop (she’s going to kill me when she reads this!). But honestly good cop, bad cop just doesn’t work anymore with these smart kids. We’re both victims of our naughty children who are now ‘playing us’ against each other.
Do you plan to have more kids?
There is no plan, we’re pretty much done at 3…Although you never know!
How do you keep the romance alive after having kids?
Weekly date nights and having a good sense of humor are critical!
After ~14 years of marriage Maria and I are in good place. We’ve figured each other out, know our roles and I am officially an expert at saying, “Yes Dear” 🙂
What’s the best thing about being a dad in Dubai?
Well as a father of three kids I love the fact that I can expose my children to so much diversity Dubai has to offer! When we go to MOE; within 5 minutes we’ll see or interact with Locals Arabs, Indians, Europeans, and many other nationalities. Each and every culture is so amazing and I just don’t remember seeing such a melting pot anywhere else in the world.
What’s the hardest part of being a dad in Dubai?
Frankly we love Dubai and can’t really see any big challenges. In fact it’s a very kid friendly city — the only challenge I have seen is with the hot weather; for example we’re limited in the months we can play football outside with the kids. But then when it’s hot, we jump into the many swimming pools!
Who do your kids look like, you or your wife?
Well this is certainly debatable…but I’m told all three have features and personalities which resemble myself.
What do you know now that you wish you knew before becoming a dad?
I wish I slept more…
Biggest lesson learned?
Don’t be ashamed of mistakes, embrace and learn from them. It’s the mistakes of my past (and those hard lessons learned) which have made me who I am today.
What’s the funniest parenting story you can share?
I remember once on a long haul flight back from Chicago my family and I were waiting at the Airport. At the time our son Danyal was still drinking from a milk bottle. Just before the flight we wanted to warm the milk and a Starbucks employee was nice enough to heat it up. In addition, We were excited about the flight back as it was a night flight and the kids would be sleeping. Unfortunately for some reason Danyal was bouncing off the walls like a cartoon…and that’s when we quickly realized the Starbucks employee had heated the milk in a canister with traces of coffee grounds! Didn’t get much sleep on that flight and neither did some of the other passengers, sorry!
How has having kids changed the way you define work?
Kids didn’t just change the way I define work, it changed how I defined life. I personally believe kids enable us to experience the truest form of selflessness and responsibility. Both traits have made us better people and a better business owner. In many ways I have our kids to thank for the inspiration to start Koita Organic Milk.
Do you have any tips for soon-to-be dads in Dubai?
Sleep now, save now, and whenever there is an emergency – have an iPad handy.
Favourite family-friendly restaurants in Dubai?
Clinton Street….ooohh we love their Fried Chicken and Waffles!
Favourite activities with the family? Play centres, etc?
We really enjoying doing anything with water, jumping in the pool and playing silly games like “Marco Polo!”.
Favourite date night spots with just your wife?
The Reform @ The Lakes Club is a usual hangout and we also live nearby! If we want to ‘glam it up’ then Zuma or Le Petit Maison are our favorites.
Favourite place for a little grooming (we know all men do it!)?
1847 in Grovenor House, it’s the best…yes, I do go there from time to time 🙂
What are your favourite foods to eat?
I have a sweet tooth for anything Salted Caramel and Peanut Butter! Lately we have been searching for Organic versions and found an Organic Salted Caramel Milkshake also at Clinton Street.
If you had 3 wishes, what would they be?
1) Koita Foods can make premium organic eating more accessible to everyone in the world.
2) My daughters never date until they get married.
3) Everyone did one random nice thing a day to a stranger (pay it forward!)
How did you get into organic milk?
As parents of 3 children in Dubai we quickly realized the importance of switching our children to clean junk free Organic food.
Furthermore, we learned that Milks and Meats were the most critical items to switch, as they are most commonly consumed by our children (especially milk!).
As many in the Middle East know, it’s sometimes hard to get Organic food. The local supply and certification process is still new and most of our food is imported. In addition Organic food traditionally is either very expensive or hard to find. So we saw an opportunity.
We then traveled all over the world to find the greatest, purest and tastiest organic certified milk from happiest grass fed cows….and we found them just outside of Milan, Italy. Then we perfected a way to provide fresh creamy tasting organic milk with a 6 months shelf life whilst using NO artificial preservatives!
Notably, Koita Organic Milk is produced from 100% Pure, fresh organic cow’s milk (no powders). We use a process called UHT whereby we heat the milk with steam for just a few seconds and cool it down immediately, then we put it in an air-tight aseptic Tetra Pak package made from paper that also provides light barrier, thus preserving the original taste and freshness. Yes, it tastes great. (For more about the UHT process you can click here mamas!)
Finally since giving back is part of our “Eat Good, Feel Good, and Do Good” ethos; we built philanthropic partnerships with many of the local charities (i.e. Adopt-A-Camp, Disabled Children Association in Saudi and Al Ihsan Charity) to help ensure a portion of every milk pack sold has a % of the proceeds donated back. Moving forard, we have alot of new products and exciting plans coming out; and look forward to working with consumers in the middle east to continuously perfect our offering!
Thanks to Stephanie Hamilton from Nektar Photography for taking these gorgeous shots!