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A look at what the UAE means to some of the country's most inspirational residents

A look at what the UAE means to some of the country's most inspirational residents

In celebration of National Day

Editor: Buro 24/7


We asked some of our favourite residents of the UAE – including Madiyah Al Sharqi, Shamsa Alabbar, Ingie Chalhoub, Wissam Shawkat, Rami Al Ali and Saeed Khalifa – about their favourite spots around the country and what makes the UAE so special...

Today we mark 43 years of this incredible country – the United Arab Emirates – which is a place of extraordinary vision and ambition with a heart of pure gold. We wish all citizens and residents of the UAE a fantastic day of celebration.

To honour the occasion we asked a handful of our favourite creative and inspirational UAE residents to answer these five questions about their beloved home...

"Its growth has been my growth, its development has been my development, its rise has been my rise, hence it hasn't impacted me because it is part of me." – Fatma Al Mulla

UAE National Day feature

Ingie Chalhoub Fashion designer and entrepreneur

What does the UAE mean to you? The UAE is home for me. Dubai is where I settled down after having been in Lebanon, France and Kuwait. I still travel a lot, I would say I "commute" between Paris, where I have my atelier and I work on my Ingie Paris collections, and Dubai, where the headquarters of Etoile Group are; but each time I am back in the UAE is when I really feel at home.

How has the UAE impacted your life? The UAE brought me luck and success. The opportunities that this country offers are not comparable to anywhere else in the world. In the UAE, if you have a clear vision of what you want to reach and you put all your efforts in it, you can really make it: everything works to facilitate entrepreneurship and the realisation of ambitious projects.

What is the UAE's best spot for culture? I love the art galleries in Dubai, both in Al Quoz and DIFC. I often go there to find some inspiration for my designs and to free my mind from the daily routine: there is a great energy in the younger generation and discovering all the emerging artists of the region is extremely stimulating and refreshing.

What is the UAE's best spot for food and entertainment? I have to say I love DIFC also for its nightlife. In that area you have such a concentration of the best restaurants of Dubai that it just makes your life easier when you want to have a fun night out.

Who are the UAE's biggest talents? I sincerely admire H.H. Sheika Meitha Bint Mohammed Bin Rachid Al Maktoum. I met her during the two editions of the Ralph Lauren Ladies Polo Tournament and she really is a great example of determination, charisma and strength. A truly inspiring woman!

What would you like to see in the UAE that isn't here yet? I think that the key strength of the UAE is what I call its "wonder effect". Whatever you think it is not there now it will be there tomorrow.

 

UAE National Day feature

Fatma Al Mulla Designer

What does the UAE mean to you? Home, and home is where the heart is, therefore it is engraved inside my heart

How has the UAE impacted your life? It hasn't impacted me because I am from the UAE. Its growth has been my growth, its development has been my development, its rise has been my rise, hence it hasn't impacted me because it is part of me.

What is the UAE's best spot for culture? Within the Emiratis. Because culture here in the UAE isn't something that's tangible, we are a culture that passes its values traditions mostly verbally, hence culture is instilled with us  

What is the UAE's best spot for food andentertainment? Dubai and Abu Dhabi are filled with amazing spots for food and entertainment, but personally I enjoy going to Global Village, as I love the fresh air and the food there.

Who are the UAE's biggest talents? God has blessed us with great open-minded leaders, the late Sheikh Zayed, the late Sheikh Rashid, the late Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid (may God rest their souls), and our current Sheikhs – Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, they are the UAE's biggest assets.

What would you like to see in the UAE that isn't here yet? I think everything is here already.

Khawla Al Serkal

Khawla Al Serkal Director of Sharjah Ladies Club

What does the UAE mean to you? The UAE is my home and it is where I belong. 

How has the UAE impacted your life? The UAE has benchmarked itself as the 'crème de la crème' of the Arab countries, and it makes us proud to be Emirati citizens.

What is the UAE's best spot for culture? I love how the heart of Sharjah is renowned for its rich traditions and culture.  It highlights how and where people were living in the UAE, and features museums named after people who lived there, which gives you goosebumps when you step inside and see the old ways of living. This makes us proud of how the UAE transformed to where it is now. All praise and thanks to Allah.

What is the UAE's best spot for food and entertainment? I would say Dubai is the top spot for commerce/business in the UAE. Many innovative projects are opening up with new restaurants that feature diverse cuisines.

Who are the UAE's biggest talents? There are numerous emerging talents out there and I am proud to say they are all Emiratis, for example: Mohammed Harib who is behind Freej, the creative Nasr Nasr Allah, Fatma Al Mulla who is behind the pop-culture label made in Dubai. The author of Ajwan – the first science fiction novel written by an Emirati – Noura Al Noman, then there is the first woman film producer and TV director in the UAE Nayla Al Khaja and the founder of Kalimati, Bedour Al Raqbani.

What would you like to see in the UAE that isn't here yet? The UAE has topped our expectations and I think the question should be about what we do not want to see in the UAE. I would strongly urge that the UAE continues to preserve its cultural values and traditions as these become less practiced with time. That's my only wish as an Emirati.  

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Shamsa Alabbar Founder and creative director of Alabbar Designs

What does the UAE mean to you? The UAE is home, and always my only source of inspiration.

How has the UAE impacted your life? I think the UAE has always been my motivation, seeing where it was a few years back and how it's become. Even in my work, and decisions, it reminds me that I want nothing less than the best! Also, with the UAE being very modern, it still holds tightly onto our traditions and culture, which I respect a lot. 

What is the UAE's best spot for culture? Old Dubai – Al Shandagha.

What is the UAE's best spot for food and entertainment? Downtown Dubai, Dubai Fountain View. 

Who are the UAE's biggest talents? Kadi Boutique – a Dubai based flower e-boutique that takes floral designs into a new level of sophistication, and is my personal favourite.

What would you like to see in the UAE that isn't here yet? That's a hard question because I think the UAE is perfect as is. I can't think of something that is missing.

UAE National Day feature

Wissam Shawkat Artist, designer, calligrapher, and typographer

What does the UAE mean to you? Simply: home.

How has the UAE impacted your life? A lot! I started my professional career when I arrived here 12 years ago, and it has allowed me to elevate my work and gain international exposure.

What is the UAE's best spot for culture? There are so many – but my favourite is the Gate village in DIFC.

What is the UAE's best spot for food andentertainment? The Dubai Mall.

Who are the UAE's biggest talents? The artist Abdulqader Alrais, and photographer Saeed Khalifa are very talented.

What would you like to see in the UAE that isn't here yet? More greenery and playing areas between the buildings – and more museums in Dubai.

"The UAE is so diverse that everywhere you go is a "spot for culture." – SAEED KHALIFA

UAE National Day feature

Saeed Khalifa Artist and photographer

What does the UAE mean to you? The UAE is my home. My mother. It means the world.

How has the UAE impacted your life? I saw it change in front of my eyes. The impact that I got was exposure to new things and new cultures. At that time everything was different. My mind was like a sponge.

What is the UAE's best spot for culture? Everywhere and everything! The UAE is so diverse that everywhere you go is a "spot for culture".

What is the UAE's best spot for food and entertainment? I love going to Bur Dubai or Satwa and drop into every place that sells anything edible... You find gems everywhere.

Who are the UAE's biggest talents? Artists I've seen coming out of the scene are so unique and interesting in their own way. I'm currently part of the Salama emerging artist fellowship and it was eye opening being around all the talent.

What would you like to see in the UAE that isn't here yet? I will be waiting for a surprise! The moment you think of something, you find it. 

UAE National Day feature

Mojeh Izadpanah Founder and Editor-in-chief Mojeh Magazine

What does the UAE mean to you? It means opportunity, adventure, and it means home....

How has the UAE impacted your life? It's opened me up to a diverse and wonderful set of people and in terms of business; the opportunity and expertise it offers has allowed me to excel in my field and continually grow and move forward. 

What is the UAE's best spot for culture? I would have to say that as long as you're someone who loves to absorb the thoughts and ideas of those around you, then anywhere in the UAE is a fantastic spot for immersing yourself in culture. In a more lateral sense, I'm looking forward to seeing what the new Design District will bring. 

What is the UAE's best spot for food and entertainment? For both great food and entertainment then The Act is definitely a favourite spot, but I'm very much looking forward to the opening of Bagatelle at the start of next year, which is a very hip New York concept with great food and music.  

Who are the UAE's biggest talents? There are many established and new talents in the region and they're continuing to go from strength to strength both regionally and internationally. To name a few, Rami Al Ali couture, Nadine Kanso, Ava Hashemi. 

What would you like to see in the UAE that isn't here yet? I'd actually just like to see it continue to grow and flourish in what it's already doing. We live in a very innovative and unique city with so many entrepreneurs and people with brilliant minds and ideas, and here we have the means to realize them.

UAE National Day feature

Louise Nichol Editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar Arabia

What does the UAE mean to you? Opportunity and energy. I came here in 2005 when I felt that the UK, where I grew up, was becoming stagnant. The pace and scale of growth I've experienced in the UAE has meant that I've never looked back.

How has the UAE impacted your life? I met my husband here, scored my dream job (twice) and am about to give birth to my second Dubai-born child. So the UAE has given me all I could ask for and far, far more.

What is the UAE's best spot for culture? With a two-year-old toddler in tow, culture's pretty low down our family agenda but we love going to Ripe Market if that counts? My personal cultural highlight is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque tour and I would love to visit the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi's pre-opening exhibition, Seeing Through Light if the new baby allows (they might have to rename it Crying Through Light).

What is the UAE's best spot for entertainment? Whenever we have guests in town we book the Rivington Grill at Souk Al Bahar for a combination of properly indulgent food, incredible service and the best views of The Dubai Fountains. I love seeing Dubai through first time tourists' eyes.

Who are the UAE's biggest talents? Mohammed Alabbar's vision never fails to astound me. Inspirational doesn't even begin to cover it.

What would you like to see in the UAE that isn't here yet? Theatres that are able to attract and replicate the production quality of London's West End. A season by the Royal Shakespeare Company would be my dream come true.

A look at what the UAE means to some of the country's most inspirational residents (фото 1)

Holly Williams Editor-in-chief of Buro 24/7 Middle East

What does the UAE mean to you? Concrete jungle where dreams are made of – there's nothing you can't do... It's the new American dream.

How has the UAE impacted your life? I moved here on a whim around seven years ago. Now the big 3-0 is approaching, I have spent some of my most important years here – my twenties. In terms of my career the impact has been life changing – to be the editor-in-chief of an international title at 29 is something I am really proud of, and I am grateful that the UAE has afforded me the opportunity to thrive and constantly challenge myself. I've worked with so many great people and been given opportunities that I don't feel I would have elsewhere, for that I am eternally grateful.

What is the UAE's best spot for culture? If you are lucky enough to be invited – an Emirati's home is the best spot in the UAE for culture. Al Quoz, The Creek area and all of the beautiful galleries dotted around DIFC are also a great source of inspiration. I've spent a lot more time in Jumeirah this year and it has become one of my favourite places too.

What is the UAE's best spot for food and entertainment? I think Pier 7 at the Dubai Marina is such a great concept – there are so many lovely restaurants and bars all under one roof, my personal favourite is Fume. I love both of the One & Only hotels and it's nice to escape Dubai and stay at the St. Regis in Abu Dhabi. Zighy Bay is also just incredible, and I visited the Chedi in Oman this year and can't recommend it enough. Global Village is also an amazing place to visit in the winter months – it's virutally tourist-free, filled with local people and an array of wares, food and entertainment from all over the world... The UAE is a pretty entertaining place.

Who are the UAE's biggest talents? I think Sheikh Mohamed is such an inspiring leader; I love how he has utilised social media this year – so smart. Sheikh Hamdan is also just so cool isn't he? That man knows how to live life.

What would you like to see in the UAE that isn't here yet? Bearing in mind that it is only 43-years-old of course there are many, many things. But how exciting that we all get to be a part of it, and to see it happen first hand? I think the UAE is one of the most interesting places in the world right now – there are only a handful of countries that are alive with creation like it...It is literally breathing and in the spring of its life. 

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Alaa Balkhy Designer of Fyunka and graduate student of Pratt University

What does the UAE mean to you? It's a second home.

How has the UAE impacted your life? I first went to Dubai when I was a college student and I was amazed by how inspiring it was. 

What is the UAE's best spot for culture? Bastakiya and the creekside area in Dubai are both my favourites.

What is the UAE's best spot for food and entertainment? Don't get me wrong I love The Dubai Mall but I also love the hidden gems within the city. I've only been to Dubai and Abu Dhabi and would love to visit the rest of the UAE.

Who are the UAE's biggest talents? There are too many to mention. So many people in the UAE inspire me and it's amazing to see so much talent in one place

What would you like to see in the UAE that isn't here yet? Isn't everything there already? I feel like anything I could think of they've already had a plan for it – although I would love to see more creative hubs and startup incubators.

"It's the city I gained a loyal client base and started getting recognition from the fashion industry." – rami al ali

UAE National Day feature

Rami Al Ali Fashion designer

What does the UAE mean to you? I've called the UAE home since 1997, when I came to Dubai after completing my education in Syria, and in truth, it was never supposed to be a permanent move. The city was the closest international fashion hub, so it made sense, as I was keen to gain experience and establish relationships. I ended up staying and I've never looked back.

How has the UAE impacted your life? Dubai is where I started my business and has had an invaluable impact on me. It's the city I gained a loyal client base and started getting recognition from the fashion industry.

What is the UAE's best spot for culture? I love to visit the older areas of Dubai like the Gold Souk and Dubai Creek, where there's so much culture and heritage, with art galleries, museums and quaint cafes. Places like Souk Al Bahar are also hidden gems.

Where is the best spot in the UAE for food and entertainment? I love trying out new restaurants, but some of my favourites include La Petite Maison in DIFC, Teatro at Towers Rotana and Okku at H Dubai. I love Mediterranean cuisine, and Em Sherif is another restaurant with amazing food.

Who are the UAE's biggest talents? I think the UAE has many great talents, especially as the region is constantly growing and evolving. Increasing numbers of creative and talented people are visiting and settling down here, which is fantastic. 

What would you like to see in the UAE that isn't here yet? I'd love to see more of an international fashion scene. Dubai has grown so much in the years I've been here, but still has a long way to go to catch up with other cities around the world, who have been established for decades.

UAE National Day feature

Madiyah Al Sharqi Fashion designer

What does the UAE mean to you? The UAE means everything to me – it's my country, my home, and of course I'm very proud of it. I studied here, and have based my brand here – so it has been the backdrop of everything I have achieved.

How has the UAE impacted your life? The UAE has impacted my life in many ways. I was raised in Fujairah where I went to school and then I moved to Dubai to study at Esmod and shortly after I created my label.

What is the UAE's best spot for culture? Coming from Fujrariah, I love The Al Bidyah Mosque as it's the oldest mosque in the UAE and is very popular amongst tourists. There is also Fujairah Fort, which is also a beautiful archaeological site.

What is the UAE's best spot for food and entertainment? I would have to say DIFC in Dubai, I think the fact that it brings together some of the top restaurants from around the globe indicates the mentality of the UAE. 

Who are the UAE's biggest talents? It would have to be HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. His vision brought the country together and he paved the way for so many Emiratis to pursue their own individual talents.

What would you like to see in the UAE that isn't here yet? To be honest I think we have everything we need in the UAE, my dream is to see the countries art and design scene continue to flourish. 

UAE National Day feature

Nadine Kanso Designer and artist

What does the UAE mean to you? The UAE is not only my home, but also it is a place where dreams come true and ambitions get fulfilled.

How has the UAE impacted your life? Coming from Europe 15 years ago to the UAE, the impact regarding change and evolution were the key components of our lives, we have witnessed that the sky is the limit – a vision is a fact and not just a word written in a book somewhere. It is a belief and a way of thinking and behaving. I am a proud Arab because of the UAE, I am an Emirati at heart!

What is the UAE's best spot for culture? Culture is a big word to point it to one spot, that said we could look at the galleries in DIFC or Al Serkal along Bastakiya, and the Maraya center in Sharjah, plus we are all waiting for the museums to open in Abu Dhabi that will be impressive.

What is the UAE's best spot for food and entertainment? I have no preference as the choices have become immense, but when it comes to food there is nothing better than the obvious La Petite Maison and Zuma. The Boulevard also is intertwining with all the choices of restaurants and cafes and walking around the Burj Khalifa is always entertaining.

Who are the UAE's biggest talents? We have a lot of people who excelled in their fields, or people who had a story that they brought to life and became a success, and it is always something to be proud of – for example, pioneers like Mustafa Ali, Khaled Shafar, Zayan Ghandour, and Ali Khadra. All of the event events popping up such as Art Dubai, Design Days, and the Vogue Dubai Fashion Experience are also so inspiring.

What would you like to see in the UAE that isn't here yet? I would like to see more walking areas with simple cafes and random brands – not only high fashion labels.

UAE National Day feature

Fatma Buhannad Founder of Butter Dubai 

What does the UAE mean to you? The UAE to me means that I was fortunate enough to be born into a society that is peaceful, kind and generous to its citizens, in terms of education, culture as well as welcoming of all nationalities and backgrounds.

How has the UAE impacted your life? As Emiratis we are very honoured and humbled to be part of a nation, which is renowned for its achievements in a small matter of time. That has made me want to achieve my goals as soon as possible and believe that we live in a society that encourages us and embeds within our minds that anything can be achievable with the correct mind-set and dedication.

What is the UAE's best spot for culture? Since I'm from Dubai, I'll mention the areas I'm more familiar with: I love any areas around the creek, as that's where most of my ancestors were. I would say the AL Fahidi district, for checking out the art scene, as well as historical buildings in Dubai. Souk Al Ras, is great for roaming around the old spice market as well as an amazing Emirati Gelateria, that sells camel milk gelato, and saffron gelato called Geewan. Last but not least, the Gold Souk, where you can get a glimpse of the old Emirati jewellery.  

What is the UAE's best spot for food and entertainment? Downtown Boulevard, where you can shop at The Dubai Mall, then visit some of the new restaurants that are opening up every other month down the Boulevard. But then, if you wanted a more chilled area, it would be Jumeirah 1, where you can go by the beach for a swim and then enjoy a light meal at Lime tree cafe.

Who are the UAE's biggest talents? His Highness, Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, as he was able to move an entire population into a progressive mind-set, in order for us to live not just a better life, but the best life possible, economically and culturally.

What would you like to see in the UAE that isn't here yet? More Emirati talents, less franchises.

Sofia Guellaty

Sofia Guellaty Senior editor at Style.com/Arabia

What does the UAE mean to you? The UAE is a carrefour of cultures and a land of opportunities. 

How has the UAE impacted your life? It made me reconcile my traditional Arab dispositions and my international fashion ambitions in a seamless way. 

What is the UAE's best spot for culture? Al Quoz for cool underground culture, Bastikiya for patrimony and emerging artists from the gulf, any venue owned by the Bin Shabib brothers, Sharjah thanks to the outstanding work of the Al Qasimi family in the matters of art, Abu Dhabi for museums, and of course soon D3.

What is the UAE's best spot for food and entertainment? La Serre is good and refined, I also love Zuma's fatty tuna but in Dubai the most incredible experiences are in hotels and my favourite is the One and Only Royal Mirage. As for entertainment every night is an opportunity to visit friends, go to an art opening, or a fashion event. Dubai is the new city that never sleeps. 

Who are the UAE's biggest talents? Madiyah Al Sharqi for her design ethos and her brand positioning Nathalie Trad for her incredible sense of style and international strategy. Bleach abayas for their creative spins and versatilityFaiza Bouguessa for reinventing the traditional garment. Nadine Kanso for her work on calligraphyHuda Kattan for building her beauty empire – I could go on for hours, the UAE is home to so many home-grown talents!

What would you like to see in the UAE that isn't here yet? A clean-up! When yesterday average talents or professionals from any industry reached high levels of responsibility due to lack of human resources and education, today we have all the tools to only push the people who are worthy and experienced. Media have a major role to play in this process, but we are getting there.

Sofia Guellaty

Haleh Nia Founding publisher and editor-in-chief of SavoirFlair.com

What does the UAE mean to you? The UAE is a symbol of ambition and achievement. To me, anything is possible here. You only need to step outside for a few minutes and remind yourself that everything you're standing on used to be a desert a mere thirty or forty years ago in order to get inspiration. 

How has the UAE impacted your life? The UAE literally shaped my entire life. I was proudly born here in 1984 and raised here my entire life. Every single day of living in Dubai has taught me the values of hard work, ambition, and perseverance. 

What is the UAE's best spot for culture? I love roaming the art galleries of DIFC and Al Quoz, and more recently I find myself daydreaming about the impending openings of such important museums as the Louvre and Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi.

What is the UAE's best spot for entertainment? At the risk of sounding like a cliché, my favourite restaurants are La Petite Maison and Zuma, both of which I visit several times a week. If I'm feeling nostalgic and craving a bit of old Dubai, I head to Miyako in the old Hyatt Regency next to the Corniche for the best Japanese in town. I used to go there every weekend as a child and though the restaurant has been renovated several times during my lifetime, the food has remained consistently excellent.

Who are the UAE's biggest talents? Far too many to name, as we have so many incredible talents here. But top of mind are Buthaina and Noor, the amazing duo behind The Dinner Club by No. 57 and No. 57 Café, who are two of the women I admire most in the world for their creativity, spirit, and their work ethic. I am floored by everything they do.

What would you like to see in the UAE that isn't here yet? I am delighted at the prospect of our fashion industry being centralised and legitimised in order for us to be recognised as one of the leading fashion capitals and I really believe we need about 10 years to get there. With the right collaborative spirit, the government's incredible support, and all the phenomenal talent coming out of retail, media, and design, we have everything we need to put Dubai on the fashion map within the next decade.

 

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