‘I’m extremely curious to see the world through Van Gogh’s eyes’
Haleema Al Owais, CEO of Sultan bin Ali Al Owais Real Estate, reveals her creative side in this chat about travel, music, books and art
What is your best childhood memory?
I am one of nine siblings, so I had an extremely noisy, chaotic and happy childhood. One of my best memories was when we were in Pakistan and my late father took us out to a rice field outside Lahore. We spent the best part of the day running around the field and (unsuccessfully) trying not to get our feet wet.
If you could travel to any place in the world for free, what place would that be?
Hands down, the magical city of Cusco in the south-eastern part of Peru. I have been there once to climb the Inca Trail and see Machu Picchu — but it is not enough. I want to go back and seriously drink up the magic of the place. It’s one of those places which you can never get enough of and always leave with unfinished business.
The biggest learning point or experience in your life.
This was when I climbed Mount Elbrus in Caucasus mountains. I was not physically prepared for the expedition, but I had an extremely supportive group whose energy prepared me mentally to conquer my fears of inadequacy, along with a 19-year-old guide who couldn’t have done a better job of encouraging me to climb through a complete white-out to reach the summit at my humble pace.
What is the one skill you’d love to learn, and why?
Playing the Oud. I love traditional khaleeji music and there’s nothing like the sound of Oud to take me into realm of musical rejuvenation. I would have liked to say singing, but am self-aware enough to not do so!
What advice would you give your younger self, if you could?
Too many to sum up briefly! But I will give it a try. I was a late bloomer, so I would certainly like to shake the shoulders of my teenage self and tell her to believe in herself, to calm down, and be more assertive about what she wants in life, to figure it out… before others made the most important choices for her.
If you could go back to any era in time or witness any major event in history, which one would it be, and why?
Without thinking twice, it would be to the time when Islam was being spread. I would love to witness the beautiful era of our beloved Prophet Muhammed (PBUH). Islamic history has always been a dear part of my education and I would love to have seen it without the opinions, biases and extremism.
Your greatest fear.
Losing people I love. I lost my father and brothers within a short span of a few years and it took me a long time to recover from it. I know we all have our time on Earth defined — and perhaps preordained lifespans — but this has created a phobia of losing my of loved ones.
If you could trade lives with one person for an entire day, who would it be and why?
Vincent Van Gogh. His artwork hits me as created by someone who saw the world differently from everyone else. It gave him a perspective that I am extremely curious to see through his eyes.
Favourite movie character of all time — and why.
Miranda Priestly! That woman is ‘fabulously insane’. I read the book before I watched The Devil Wears Prada. As evil as she sounds, it takes genius to become a person like her.
If you had to be shipwrecked on a deserted island, but your basic needs of food and water were taken care of, what two items would you want to have with you?
My Kindle with all my books pre-downloaded, and a solar panel-powered portable battery to keep me going with my reading. I am an avid reader and books always made for perfect companions in solitude.