Dubai: Meet the man who was 'born with the UAE'

Rashed Chughtai, named after the late Sheikh Rashid, will turn 50 on the same day that the UAE turns 50


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Published: Thu 28 Oct 2021, 4:23 PM

Last updated: Sun 31 Oct 2021, 10:23 AM

Rashed Chughtai, who was born in Dubai on December 2, 1971, feels happy and proud to be turning 50 on the same day that the UAE turns 50.

The Australian citizen of Pakistani origin said December 2, the UAE’s National Day, is close to his heart.

The fact that he and the UAE share a birthday, he said, is also always a discussion point among his family and friends.

“Remembering birthdays is a difficult thing but being 'born with UAE' makes it easy for my family members, friends and old UAE colleagues to remember my big day,” Chughtai, who works at AGFA as a Service Manager (ASPAC region), told Khaleej Times.

Chughtai said his parents had moved from Pakistan to Dubai before the formation of the union. He was born on the exact day when the six Trucial States came together to form the UAE. Ras Al Khaimah joined the union in 1972.

Born at Maktoum Hospital in Dubai, Chughtai said seeing the way Dubai and the UAE have grown in the last 50 years gives him immense pride and pleasure.

Recollecting his early days here, he said Dubai’s former ruler, the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, was popular and remembered for his piety, wisdom, patience and prudence.

“He was also a highly influential statesman largely responsible for creating modern Dubai. I was named Rashed due to the love and affection my parents had for the (former) Ruler of Dubai,” he said.

Chughtai, who migrated to Australia in 2004, said he is proud of the UAE and its great achievements over the last few decades.

“Although there are a few other countries which have been able to achieve similar growth rates, the UAE has done this with some spectacular infrastructure and — most importantly — making itself a global business hub,” said the father of two.

“I am proud of the UAE for achieving these milestones, as somehow I feel my dad was part of the group of people who ensured this country was set up for great things. It is this pride and love for the UAE which makes me always say that ‘'I am from the UAE'. Whatever the case may be, my home will always be the UAE,” he said.

Most expats doing skilled work in the UAE back in the days were Indians and Pakistanis. Other nationalities followed when the UAE’s sharp growth opened up huge opportunities for people from across the world.

“This has been the trump-card behind the UAE’s success — accepting people from all countries and ensuring they could work and set up businesses with ease here,” said Chughtai.

Early days

Chughtai says his father was working for British Petroleum (BP) at their depot and office, a walking distance from where they lived in Marijah, Sharjah.

“On one end of Marijah street was the BP depot, and on the other end was Sharjah Cinema, with its magnificent architecture, where I remember watching ‘Sholay’ (a Bollywood movie) with my uncle,” he said.

“My uncle had a photo studio called Al Akkas Studio at Al Nasr Sqaure, opposite ‘Kader Hotel’. There was also a cafe owned by a South Indian, which was well known throughout Dubai,” he said.

Chughtai remembers commuting from Sharjah to Dubai in a taxi for Dh3, and it took a mere 15 to 20-minute ride from Marijah to Deira as there was no traffic congestion at all on the Dubai-Sharjah road back then.

“You just had to tell the cab driver 'I need to go to Kader Hotel' and they knew the destination," he said.

Back in the days the people were simple, he said.

“Life was not easy, but everything was pretty straightforward. Medical was free for everyone (Emiratis, expatriates). The World Trade Centre was the top landmark for Dubai, whereas Al Ghurair Shopping Centre became an attraction for many of us, as it was the first shopping mall experience for many.”

Chughtai, who went to Pakistani schools in the UAE for his primary and secondary education, said they had excellent teachers, and schooling was very good. “Emphasis was paid on basics and ethical practices,” he said.

He later pursued engineering and completed his degree in aerospace engineering. As the UAE aviation industry was just starting off, getting an opportunity within an airline or the aviation industry was tough, so he joined 3M and worked in USA, Europe and the Middle East.

“I stayed with 3M Gulf/Imation for a few years, before moving to a new Canadian start-up in digital printing. Dubai, being the hub of Middle East, my job took me to quite a few countries around the world,” he said.

Relocating to Australia

Chughtai migrated from the UAE to Australia in 2004.

“It was in 2001 that I realised I needed to find a permanent home,” he says. “My dad was not able to settle in Pakistan after spending all his adult life in the UAE. He managed to return and started a business to ensure he could live in UAE.”

Although he had a good and stable job in the UAE, Chughtai took the difficult decision of leaving the country he called his home.

“I tried to settle in a country where I could gain nationality and other benefits related to citizenship,” he said. “My heart, however, still beats with UAE. It is my home and I will always wish the best for the people of the UAE.”


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Chughtai often visits the UAE to see his mother and his siblings, who are still living here.

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