Keeping it in the family: How a relocation from Germany to UAE in 1966 paved the way for this business

For Dr Azhari's sons, Anwar and Karim, taking over the reins of the family business was a natural progression that happened along with the growth of a nation

By Sandhya D'Mello

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Dr Azhari and Anwar Azhari
Dr Azhari and Anwar Azhari

Published: Thu 15 Feb 2024, 7:45 AM

Last updated: Fri 16 Feb 2024, 5:28 PM

Dr Mohamed Al Azhari, a Syrian, decided to move from his university in Berlin to Abu Dhabi in 1966, before the seven Trucial states unified to become the UAE. His two sons, Anwar Al Azhari, born in1970 in Dubai, and Karim Al Azhari, born in 1973 in Abu Dhabi are now carrying the baton of a family business he set up then, drawing from the rich learnings of a Syrian- German parentage.

Business in the 70s and now

"In the 70s, it was a simpler world. Business deals were sealed with a handshake; the community was very personal. The availability of items was scarce, but that did not deter businesses or stop them from striving forward. Businesses go forward without knowing the other side of the transactions. Now there is an abundance of everything that has made business very competitive," says Dr Al Azhari, looking back.

For Dr Azhari's sons, Anwar and Karim, taking over the reins of the family business was a natural progression that happened along with the growth of a nation.

Karim Al Azhari
Karim Al Azhari

“I am very privileged to have spent my lifetime watching the incredible yet calculated transition of the UAE to what it is today. I am proud of my parents who have brought with them their rich roots of Syria and Germany to the then simple communities in the UAE made up of mostly locals, sharing evenings comparing their amazingly contrasting lives,” says Karim.

“Every single year my life has been spent in the UAE, bonding with the country and finding my answers to how I can contribute back to the country,” adds Karim.

Down the memory lane

Dr Azhari is a Ph.D. holder in Civil Engineering, and it was his professor at the Free University of Berlin who recognised the value of combining Syrian origin and German education and that could benefit Abu Dhabi’s future and set the right path forward.

“By the time I was born, my father had established a contracting company in Abu Dhabi and he has shared wonderful stories with me about his experiences,” said Karim.

Some years later, a friendship with Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, saw Dr Azhari move to Sharjah and set up his first factory there.

Karim’s best childhood memory is of spending his entire school life from Grade 1 to Grade 12 at the International School of Choueifat, which imparted valuable stability to his childhood.

“We were fortunate during those years to eventually end up in Al Khan Sharjah on the wonderful beachfront project of villas. I left at the age of 15 to attend University in the USA to study Mechanical Engineering because I planned to work at Porsche and then do Civil Engineering. But I wised up and recognised that following in the footsteps of my father and brother Anwar could lead to a more stable life,” said Karim.

The brothers paid rich tributes to their father and echoed their appreciation and gratitude for all the lessons and wisdom they had imbibed from him.

“We have learned from our father many things such as looking at situations outside the box to find better and more efficient solutions. To ask for advice in finding the solutions but to be sceptical of experts. No situation is too big to tackle. But overall, be kind to everyone and avoid arrogance. Our dad is a great role model. We have absorbed his ways and applied them to the situations that we encountered. We always look forward, never look back, and do our best,” says Anwar.

“I, too, have ventured out by myself and done some great things alone, yet I am fortunate to be wise enough to work alongside my father, and luckily, he has accepted my presence,” says Karim.

"Today the world is much more complex, with many more distractions. Therefore, it is very tempting to venture away and think family business is old-fashioned but together it is more exciting," he points out.

Porsche Club UAE

While engineering is cool, Porsches are cooler, which explains why Karim put his energy into founding the Porsche Club UAE in 1998 and spending years as its president until Covid struck. The lockdown eventually slowed down the momentum and made Karim focus on other things, and brought him to Sounbula Mills in Jebel Ali Free Zone.

“I am proud to say that my father is blessed to have two sons who respect and look up to him. Having us join his businesses has supported and enabled growth and made venturing into other fields possible, while always keeping our path straight, focused, and well-guided by him,” said Karim.

“My advice to young entrepreneurs is — follow your dreams and mainly your ideas. Don’t be afraid of challenges and always do the right thing and build a name for yourself,” concludes Dr Azhari.

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