DUBAI (Reuters) – French businesswoman and mother Samira Amarir struggled to find toys which could help impart her Islamic faith to her young daughter, so she invented her own.
Now the Barbie-lookalike “Jenna” doll, which she designed from scratch to recite four chapters from the Quran, has entered mass production and is on sale in Gulf Arab countries.
“When my daughter Jenna turned two years old, I was looking for a toy or a tool,” Amarir said.
“The idea was to come up with a toy that would enable her to learn the Quran fast and easily while she plays.”
Jenna, with a name derived from the Arabic word for heaven, comes dressed in a lengthy “abaya” robe with a matching purple headscarf.
Designing the doll using online modeling software, Amarir decided to give it a dark skin tone and little makeup.
“For me it was important that the doll would show something my daughter can recognize herself in, or recognize her mother at least,” she said.
The four chapters that Jenna recites are short and designed to be easy for a child to memorize. Within days of beginning to play with the doll, she began reciting verses.
Amarir and family have moved from their home in France to the United Arab Emirates to market the doll in the wealthy and religiously conservative Gulf.
After four years and many flights to Chinese factories to get the doll produced, she launched Jenna earlier this year in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE.