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UAE: Meet the gifted Emirati pilot, composer, pianist and inventor with an IQ of 144

As well as flying with Etihad Airways since 2012, the 28-year-old's music has been performed at orchestras worldwide



By Rasha Abu Baker

Published: Sat 29 Jan 2022, 11:27 AM

Last updated: Sat 29 Jan 2022, 10:43 PM

To say Hamad Al Taee is not your average 28-year-old is a massive understatement.

Al Taee is an Emirati pilot who joined Etihad Airways in 2012 after graduating from Abu Dhabi University with a BSc in Aviation. He completed the four-year course in just three years, which is in itself unusual, but perhaps with an IQ of 144, which places him in the 'gifted' category, it comes as no surprise.

His passion for flying and aeroplanes began during his childhood when he lived abroad with his family as his father was a diplomat.

"I always loved aviation because we lived abroad, and we were always travelling back to Abu Dhabi. I have flown a lot since my childhood," Al Taee says.

"I used to collect toy airplanes and from that time I knew I was in love with aviation and flying. From that moment I pursued my dream until it came true."

Discovering his musical joy

Beyond his profession, Al Taee, who is from Abu Dhabi, is also a talented pianist and composer. He began playing the piano aged five, and by the time he was in high school, he had composed his first piece of music.

"I started doing that [composing] on my own, at home. I didn't know if the piece I composed was good or not. I didn't have any feedback as there were no musicians around me."

His first experience of playing in public was at Galleria Mall in Abu Dhabi. "I remember often seeing the piano at the mall, and no one would be playing it. I contacted the mall management, and they were very welcoming and offered me a chance to play. I started playing there twice a week and my confidence grew."

He said that he might still be playing out of his bedroom if he hadn't done that.

"That was a really good step to take, playing in the shopping mall. The feedback from the public really motivated me and also helped me understand where I needed to improve.

"Some people came up to me and said things like they were having a bad day and feeling depressed and that [my music] changed their day."

Al Taee continued to play his music compositions at the mall before gaining enough confidence and experience to play in concerts. So far, he has played his own music with orchestras around the world, including at the Sydney Opera House, Florence, Italy (in a church converted into an exhibition centre), Paris (Sorbonne University's beautiful historical theatre), Bolton, UK, Minsk in Belarus, and Bishkek in Kyrgystan. Locally, he has played at the Dubai Opera House, Manarat Al Saadiyat, and the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.

The composers who have influenced him growing up are Greek-American composer Yanni and German film score composer Hans Zimmer.

Al Taee said he began listening to this type of music as a child, as "my parents used to always play Yanni in the car." He describes his pieces as new age music, saying, "it's more like movie theme trance music."

Al Taee balances his busy schedule flying for Etihad with his talent for composing music as his travels often afford him opportunities for inspiration.

"I compose music when I travel. Instead of writing stories, I write music. When I travel, instead of writing a diary of my day, I express it through music," Al Taee explained. He adds that he likes to go to villages as going to the countryside sparks his creative energy, "because everyone is very simple and happy, so you get lots of positive vibes. Nature has a powerful energy that converts to music as well."

"The music that I compose personally always sends a message of happiness and hope and is always positive. All my pieces are uplifting."

His favourite country is Iceland, he explains, "There's lots of nature, volcanoes, waterfalls, the hot springs. The energy speaks to you. Nature is a very powerful tool for me to use in composing music."

Support every step of the way

Al Taee gives credit to his parents, saying that they never held him back, and their constant support, encouragement and positivity has helped him become the man he is today.

"My parents were always supportive and really positive. They never said 'no don't do this' or 'why are you doing that'. They always allowed me do what I wanted, as long as it was good."

His impressive family background and environment can also shed light on Al Taee's penchant for learning and creating. His father served as a UAE ambassador in several countries around the world. Growing up with such significant cultural influences undoubtedly had a positive impact on young Al Taee.

"I spent much of my childhood abroad. It was in Malaysia where I started playing the piano. We lived abroad a lot and I had lots of exposure [to different cultures]. Maybe it's the environment I was raised in from childhood which also played a role."

He returned to the UAE as a fourth-grader and recalls when he discovered that not everyone was supportive of his musical talent.

"Some people said music was haram [forbidden] ... I just used to smile back, unsure how else to respond."

Al Taee's exceptional intellectual and creative abilities also started early. "I used to love participating in mechanical and electrical engineering courses, do projects, build things. Since I was a sixth grader, I have been interested in inventing things. I used to go to the shop and buy everyday objects and build something with them."

He once bought a remote control unit and some lights, transforming his family home's garden area into a landscaped illuminated by remote-controlled lighting.

"For my university project, I built a fully handmade Airbus A380, complete with an electric engine, which actually flew. In terms of the scale of the aircraft, I took the real measurements and scaled them down to a smaller size."

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Al Taee is always looking for new ideas to pursue.

"I always like to do something new, to see something new and to invent. When you achieve something like that, it's extremely rewarding. I always like to do small projects; sometimes it doesn't work, sometimes it does."

He adds, "Achievement is rewarding, and when you feel the success, you have the potential to achieve more. I enjoy always challenging myself. If I see someone doing something interesting I want to try it myself and see if I can do better. For me nothing is impossible."

Giving back through invention

In 2013, at only 20 years old, Al Taee invented a fully-equipped bicycle complete with a camera, computer, GPS, a traffic guidance system and a blackbox. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Minister of Interior, approved the use of the bicycle, and it is currently being used by Abu Dhabi Police.

"It is used in park patrols, various outdoor events like marathons and national day celebrations, as it makes it easy to manoeuvre around big crowds. Its environmentally-friendly and healthy as its exercise and its fun, they enjoy it," he explained.

Recipe for success

Al Taee says people always wonder about how he manages to multitask his job and hobbies.

"I always keep a schedule. I encourage everyone, especially the youth, to continue their dreams but to always plan ahead. I plan on a weekly basis to fit in my hobbies which include horse-riding, cycling, and yoga."

He added that one of the main reasons for his success was the support he received from his parents. "Parental support means a lot, and I really encourage all parents to support their children's dreams."

"Having a dream to pursue means you never stop trying; and even if you sometimes fail, you learn from your mistakes - so don't fear failure. If you make mistakes, you can fix them, you can try again. There is no border which says that if you fail you will fall down and that will be the end of everything; on the contrary, to challenge failure is better than to give in to it and at least you can say you tried," he concluded.


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