The city’s best

If you thought Dubai was all about jet-setting celebrities from across the world, you would be wide off the mark.

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Published: Tue 30 Nov 2010, 9:16 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:06 PM

Here we bring you a selection of homegrown talents who have left an indelible mark on our social calendar


Fujairah-born director Abdulla Al Kaabi will further advance the fledgling Emirati moviemaking industry when his short film The Philosopher premieres at this year’s Dubai International Film Festival.

Starring Hollywood actor Jean Reno (Leon, The Da Vinci Code), the film follows a multi-talented man who suddenly decides to give up all his possessions – including his clothes – to embark on a new life of reflection.

So how did Abdulla, currently pursuing his Master’s degree in filmmaking in Paris, land such a high-profile star for his filmmaking debut?

“We met for a lunch and the chemistry was right from the beginning,” he told City Times, adding that his 17-minute story’s central themes include “solidarity, companionship and hospitality, to a name a few”.

Influenced by everyone from David Fincher to Youssef Shahin, Abdulla’s adaptation of Baggio’s Story by American author Charlie Fish cost more than one million dirhams to make.

The 24-year-old ex-model is also working on his feature debut, and promises that he has some “major” Hollywood actors lined up for the project.


The word ‘extraordinary’ gets tossed around quite a bit these days, but in the case of Abeer Suwaidi, there’s no other way to put it. That’s because she’s ‘funky-fying’ Emirati fashion like no one ever dared to.

On the verge of breaking trends and causing quite a stir in the world of local fashion, Suwaidi is unrelenting in her mission to modernise national dress and get women to step outside their comfort zones.

Her pièce de résistance? The ‘skinny’ abaya (just think skinny jeans with an Arabian twist).

Suwaidi’s boutique, USH, is a museum of modernity, and women of all ages and nationalities are flocking there in search of flowing garments that are causing quite the controversy in some traditional circles.

Amidst the sea of vibrant colours, Suwaidi speaks of her love for Emirati culture and tradition, but stresses the need to be open about the future of fashion in the region.

“The abaya is not what people perceive,” she explained. “It’s chic and it can be classy and sexy as well. It is supposed to make you more feminine.”

Recently showcasing her new collection at Dubai Fashion Week, Suwaidi faced a barrage of criticism as well as support from the viewing public.

“I must have tolerance and patience for people,” she said. “At the end of the day, it is my supporters who encourage me to make my next design.”


This summer, Dubai resident Sara El Khouly claimed the title of Miss Egypt, before heading onto China to compete in the Miss World 2010 pageant in October.

Sara was born in Libya to an Egyptian father and a Croatian mother, but has spent almost her entire life in the UAE.

At present, Sara lives with her family in Dubai and attends the American University of Sharjah, where she studies PR and advertising.

“I eat very healthily; and I’m on a very strict diet now, which is very hard,” she told City Times ahead of her Miss World appearance. “I do Pilates four times a week, gym four times a week and swim three times a week.”

But Sara, who loves photography and reading, insisted she wouldn’t be taking part in any backstage gossip, or splurging her prize money on a shopping spree.

“I’d rather keep it aside for the future, because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” said the level-headed beauty.

Miss USA Alexandria Mills eventually claimed the Miss World title, but Sara insisted before the contest she has other ambitions beyond the beauty pageant industry.

“I would love to do television presenting or to have my own PR company,” she told us. “And I’m passionate about orphans and human trafficking. I would definitely like to raise awareness about human trafficking and work on a project to take care of orphans.”


Dubai native Adel Farooq is the only Emirati to have released his own collection of songs in a language other than Arabic or English.

With his Bollywood-inspired Hindi CD Daastaan, released this year, this unique artist looks to embrace the UAE spirit with a confluence of cultures.

The always eloquent and smartly dressed Adel must take the crown as one of the most unique singers in the UAE. Not only is he Emirati born and bred, he has been vice captain of the UAE cricket team, a banking fraud expert and a successful entrepreneur, before deciding to take an unconventional career direction and sing exclusively in Hindi on Daastaan, his first album.

“I think the greatest compliment for me is that my family and friends bought the CD,” Adel stated after the album’s release. “They could have got copies for free but they gave over their money because they enjoy what they hear. Everyone has been so supportive because I think this CD embodies the UAE spirit: it is a cultural crossover.”


A Palestinian national, brought up in Dubai and educated in North America, Laila Masri’s merging of cultural influences is only trumped by her quest for individualism in today’s all too generic world.

Seeing herself as somewhat of a maverick, Laila is not afraid to challenge preconceptions with her work, which encompasses both video and painted mediums, and also tackle the conventional in her personal life.

It was not until she moved to Canada in her late teens, for example, that she decided to embrace her religion further and wear the headscarf (albeit a slightly more colourful one than some would expect).

Laila’s most recent display in Bloomingdale’s Home, Dubai Mall, is an example of her finest brush skills.

Free-flowing colours, dynamic representations of the human form and evocative motifs, her paintings are unique.

The majority of her pieces are a burst of activity highlighted by a bright palette, yet subtly nuanced with a neutral background.

Each example tells a story that even those not versed in Middle Eastern culture could easily relate to.

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