Dubai twin festival

Twins in the city share their spookiest tales of lookalike life in the city

Rabeel and Sharjeel Mohammed Ali Haider
Rabeel and Sharjeel Mohammed Ali Haider
Firas and Nizhar Abou Hassan
Firas and Nizhar Abou Hassan
Michel and Marcel Brouillet
Michel and Marcel Brouillet
Ethar and Ebaa Binjawi
Ethar and Ebaa Binjawi

On Friday March 22, the Twins Plus Festival 2013 – known as the Multiples Festival during its inaugural event last year – takes place in Za’abeel Park, welcoming twins, triplets, quadruplets and more to meet others from the UAE and the Gulf. It’s the only gathering of twins and multiples in the region, and will offer competitions for attendees of all ages, plus sports and kids’ activities, a bazaar and even a fashion show.

To learn more about what it’s like to be a twin, we caught up with four sets of monozygotic twins (aka ‘identical’ twins, created from the same cell) to find out whether they really can read each other’s minds, and why having someone who looks exactly like you can have many advantages.

Are you ever too old to dress the same?
All the twins we spoke to were adamant that the days of being dressed alike by their parents and guardians were long gone – with the exception of Rabeel and Sharjeel Mohammed Ali Haider. Originally from Pakistan, the 29-year-old brothers are both employed as graphic designers at a Dubai advertising agency, and never go a day without making sure their outfits are exactly the same. It might seem difficult to pull off, but for siblings who live together, work together and, according to Rabeel, rarely spend a minute apart (they even share a single mobile phone), it’s just another part of daily life. ‘If we walk into a shop and want to buy clothes, they have to have two of the same item. If they don’t, we’ll leave and go to another store,’ he explains. They do encounter problems occasionally, but they’ve done well enough that Rabeel can’t remember the last time they wore different outfits.

Admittedly, the duo usually attract a lot of attention when they’re out and about in Dubai, and they frequently get stopped for photos. ‘Whenever we go to Mall of the Emirates, people want to see our ID,’ he says, bemused. ‘They ask if they can have their photo taken with us too. We’re always happy to do that.’

And clothes aren’t the only thing in which they have similar taste. ‘We like the same kind of people – it’s the same when we meet women. I ask Sharjeel which one he likes, and it’s always the same one as me, which causes problems. He adds that the only solution that will allow them both to be happy is to meet female identical twins – something he hopes may happen at the Twins Plus Festival.

Is swapping exams really cheating?
For Lebanese twins Firas and Nizhar Abou Hassan, swapping identities was a way of sailing through school without the stress of juggling as many subjects as their fellow students. The 26-year-olds live in Dubai and Abu Dhabi respectively. ‘When we were growing up in Lebanon and studying geography and history, we would swap for verbal tests,’ Firas explains. ‘My brother studied one, and I did the other, so when the teacher called for Nizhar, he went in and did the test. When he came back, we swapped seats and she came in to collect the other, calling for Firas – so he would go back out and do it again,’ he laughs. And the teachers never cottoned on? ‘No, never. But after we became famous among the schools, the headmaster asked my dad to separate us for our secondary education and put us in different schools.’ It was to prove a fruitless move, however, as despite studying in separate locations, Firas still managed to sit his brother’s midyear mathematics test for him. Afterwards, he went back outside and swapped shoes with his brother, who returned to sit his French and history exams.

Can twins really read each other’s minds?
Though it doesn’t happen every day, most of the twins we spoke to have experienced regular incidences of sharing thoughts. Canadian pair Michel and Marcel Brouillet, who refer to themselves as the ‘M&M’ twins, have often found themselves communicating unknowingly. ‘When we were about eight years old, in Sunday school, we were separated into different classes for the first time,’ explains Michel. ‘We were given pictures to colour in, and when we came out of our classes we saw we’d used exactly the same colours in the same places, apart from one blue that was a little darker than the other.’

A few years later, Michel set off to walk home from high school without his brother. ‘As I was walking, I suddenly got this pain in my stomach, as though I’d just been punched – immediately I thought my brother was involved in a fight,’ he explains. Racing back to school, he found Marcel laughing with a girl – they’d been play fighting, ‘and she’d just hit him in the gut’.

Sudanese twins Ethar and Ebaa Binjawi have always strived to be different, aided by their naturally polar opposite tastes and interests. Yet one day they found themselves to be far more alike than either of them had realised. ‘When we had our first email accounts, we never used to share anything personal or tell each other our passwords, but six years later we discovered that we had both always used the exact same one,’ Ethar reveals.

Firas explains there’s one thing that happens to himself and his brother ‘all the time, almost every day’. ‘If we speak on the phone, me in Dubai, Nizhar in Abu Dhabi, I might be singing a song, and he’ll say, “Oh, I was singing that one three seconds ago”,’ he says. ‘Last weekend we went to my uncle’s house in Al Ain, from our separate homes, and when we got there we were both wearing jeans, a white shirt and a black jacket. My sister and dad were convinced we’d called ahead to arrange to wear the same thing.’
The Twins Plus Festival takes place on Friday March 22, 10am-7pm. Entry is Dhs15 for adults, Dhs10 for under 18s (excluding park entry fee). Za’abeel Park (052 865 9291).

Multiples in the city

Community group Multiples UAE offers support, advice, monthly meetings and much more for parents or expectant parents of twins and multiples.

In the news
A Syrian family found themselves making headlines at the beginning of 2013 after welcoming quintuplets at Dubai’s Saudi-German hospital. Sadly, one of the babies lived just a few days.

Blogging twins
UAE-based students Alizey and Lailli Mirza are the twin fashion bloggers behind Dubai’s Pintsized Fashionista. The duo regularly post snaps of their ‘look of the day’, publish tutorials and have branched out into personal styling. Not bad considering they’re not even 18.

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