The UAE is one of the fasting growing countries in the world, with unprecedented opportunities, whether for local Emirati residents or expats from abroad. And one of the most exciting things to look out for in the country are the inspirational next wave of Emirati leaders who are doing their country proud.
Here are the seven who we’ve spoken to on The Livehealthy Podcast (Arabic) from different fields and backgrounds.
What prompted Nouran Al Bannai to leave a prestigious career as a senior quality engineer at the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) to pursue her passion for coffee?
Nouran had majored in architecture and worked in the Engineering Projects Department in Abu Dhabi Police before moving on to ADNOC. In 2018 she opened Coffee Architecture, and in 2019, she gave up her job to pursue her passion.
“I have been experimenting the smell and taste of coffee with my grandmother since my childhood,” she explains. “Also I like to make the coffee myself, as I take care of all the details.”
After her grandmother’s death in 2016, Nouran was keen to keep her memory, alive through her love of coffee and by introducting her grandmother’s blends to others.
She traveled to the United States to study everything from preparation to tasting, becoming the first Emirati to earn a certificate from the Coffee Quality Institute.
Mohammad Hassan Rahma is an Emirati surfer who embodies resiliency. After being diagnosed with adaptive colitis 15 years ago, it was difficult for him to compete in sports, not to mention lead a normal daily life.
“I felt frustrated and lost my hope in achieving my dream, and I traveled to many countries to receive treatment, but to no avail, and it also affected my mental health,” he explains, “but I decided to adapt to my life and learned other sports.”
Ten years ago, Mohammed began practicing surfing, becoming the only Arab surfer to compete at the Tokyo Olympics. After having his entire colon removed and using an ileostomy pouch, called an ostomy bag, he was able to lead a more normal life.
“In August 2020, I had the operation,” he says. “At first it was difficult to adapt to that, but thank God I had a strong will to achieve my dream.”
After a life-changing accident, Ahmed Al Akberi went on to become the first person of determination to obtain a “D” training license, which is a certificate approved by the UAE Football Association and the Asian Football Confederation.
A footballer from the age of 6, he played in three championships as part of the Al Wahda Club: the President’s Cup, the Etisalat Cup, and the Super Cup before his life changed forever.
“At the age of 21 I had a car accident that left me paralyzed and consequently had to let go of my professional football career,” he says. “I was deeply shocked and depressed for about two years, but His Highness Sheikh Diab bin Zayed was the first supporter of me, in addition to helping my family, players and the public to be able to overcome that shock. Which was the hardest challenge I’ve faced.”
Ahmed is the first coach of the deaf football team at the Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination, where he was able to communicate with the team members within three months. He is looking forward to obtaining advanced certificates in the field of training, and to specialize in the field of special education for people of determination.
Dr Saif Al Qassim, Emirati scientist and assistant professor of biochemistry at Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, has had a passion for biology and the molecular structures of living organisms since he was a boy.
“I inherited my love of science from my mother, who was a doctor in the field of chemistry,” he explains. “I specialized in this field, to know the three-dimensional shape of small molecules.”
His work with a family of molecular motor proteins that are responsible for transporting various cellular cargo was published in the prestigious international scientific journal Nature Communications.
Dr Al Qassim’s research is significant for understanding molecular function in the context of disease and infection, which in turn is important for developing drugs and treatment. It’s a subject very much at the forefront of the race to develop vaccines against the coronavirus and Dr Qassim wants to continue research in the UAE to “help advance health care in our country and the region”.
Nature Communications is one of the most distinguished — and selective — peer-reviewed scientific journals in the world, accepting less than eight percent of the material submitted for publication.
“I was honored to be part of a research project that will provide a solid foundation for the development of treatments for a variety of diseases,” he said.
Abdullah Ali, an Emirati dentist and comedian, also known as Abz Ali, tells jokes to entertain his dental patients by day and audiences at night — and has been leaning on humor since he was young and spotted Dave Chapelle performing onscreen in a Dubai video store.
“I looked like Harry Potter with nerdy glasses,” he says. “Being the funny guy in my group of friends became my ‘thing,’ a way to stand out and feel good.”
At 17 he suffered from depression and anxiety at the age of seventeen, when his parents were divorced; later he experienced divorce himself, which sparked more mental health challenges.
“I am back in the world of comedy again, as I consider comedy an effective therapy of psychotherapy,” he says.
Abdullah uses English as the primary language to present his performances without abandoning his local dialect, as he has performed many shows in the Emirati dialect.
Abdul Rahman Al Zaabi has dedicated himself to touring the capital of the United Arab Emirates, showing what Abu Dhabi has to offer to both expats and Emiratis in art, culture, history and more through his YouTube channels and Instagram account.
After studying in the US, he returned to work as an electrical engineer in Abu Dhabi.
“After my return from the United States, some of my friends were complaining about the lack of activities that they can do and the lack of tourist places that they can visit, and from here I decided to devote myself for discovering Abu Dhabi to educate people more about the emirate and reveal its tourist and cultural places.”
Abdulrahman launched his show A Day with Abdul to show 100 days of activities that demonstrate the capital’s opportunities and activities.
Buti Alhamed donated a kidney to his sister Alia, despite knowing that this might lead him to give up his dream in professional football career. He later moved his passion from playing to coaching.
His father spent a year while Alia was on dialysis searching for solutions, entrusting Buti before his death.
“The doctors told us that a family member should donate his kidney to solve her problem, I decided to take on that responsibility and donate one of mine. In the beginning Alia was against it because I’m into sports. I’m a fitness coach, soccer coach and a soccer player, and she didn’t want to get in the way of my work. I told her I was ready to donate a kidney and I wouldn’t give up.
“After the operation, we had to follow up with the hospital and keep to a special diet. We’re much closer now. But I always make sure that she looks after her health. At the end of every conversation, I tell her to take care of my health and my kidney.”
Buti urges everyone to contribute to support the UAE’s National Organ and Tissue Donation Program.
Reeneh Yousef has worked in media since 2007, spending at decade at Abu Dhabi Media before joining Livehealthy. She loves walking, reading and going to the gym.