My UAE: Taking the first step towards self-discovery with Zainab AlRustamani
As Zainab AlRustamani looks at a strip of pristine beach through the window of the villa she moved into this morning, she tells me she’s feeling a great sense of inner peace. Today’s move to her new dream home on Dubai’s Kite Beach is the culmination of a journey of self-discovery.
“I’ve had lots of shocks in my life and made a lot of mistakes,” admits the 37-year-old Emirati. “I started asking questions of myself. Who am I and why am I here? I found that I’m really curious about lots of things, and I began to find my true self.
“I realised that I was too angry with everything, and started calming myself down. Whatever I didn’t like in others, I started reflecting on myself, and realising there are things inside me I have to change,” she says.
AlRustamani runs the engineering consultancy office of her father Ahmad’s company, Al Turath Engineering, a position that she says she relishes. “I learnt that my work is my passion. But I noticed that as well as being an engineer, I’m also a reader, an adventurer… I’m lots of things.”
Back in 2003, as an architectural engineering student at UAE University, AlRustamani had the honour of being congratulated by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, for the architectural design she made for Jebel Ali Metro station, when plans for Dubai’s Metro network were still in their infancy. After graduating, AlRustamani worked as a project manager with Dubai Properties for nine years. In 2014, she quit this role to focus on her master’s – about the effect of climate change on urban development in the UAE.
“It was a very interesting subject, and through that, the importance of change came into the forefront of my mind,” explains AlRustamani. “I learnt that change is happening everywhere – whether it’s the weather or your life, it’s the only fact you can be sure of. The issue here is how we adapt to these changes. If we keep having a ‘square head’, we’re not going to sustain ourselves on this Earth. We need to start adapting ourselves to what’s going on.”
The past year has been one of particularly dramatic changes for AlRustamani. She moved out from the family home she designed herself and had shared with her husband, her 12-year-old daughter and two sons, ages 11 and 7, and back into her father’s home, before moving to her villa by the sea. “I know my mother is afraid about what I am going to do, especially as my kids are now only with me at the weekends,” she says. “But I told her: ‘Don’t worry, I have lots of plans.’ I have this inner courage to build my life in the way that I want, not the way others want.”
AlRustamani was invited by Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Ali bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, a member of the Ajman Royal Family fondly known as the “Green Sheikh”, to be part of an Emirati delegation to Kumamoto Province in Japan this summer, providing support to earthquake victims.
“When I visited earthquake refugees in Japan and saw how they’re living, it made me think: ‘Why are they living this way? Did we do something wrong that impacted their lives?’ I decided that I’d like to live with nothing, to experience how it feels to be poor. That will be my next challenge.”
What’s your favourite food?
I don’t eat a lot, but I love coffee. I drink three to five cups a day. I feel there’s a destiny behind each cup.
What’s your most peaceful place?
My heart. Wherever I go, I carry my heart with me, so wherever you put me, I can be at peace.
What’s the first thing you think of when you wake every day?
God says in the Quran that each one of us has God’s soul. That means that whatever God has, we have. So I always ask God every morning: “What do you want me to do today?”
Where would you love to visit before you die?
India. I feel the spiritual experience in India is totally different, so I’d like to live it. And I love animals, so I’d love to do a safari. I promised my kids I’d take them to the Maasai Mara reserve in Kenya.
Which books have you recently read?
I’ve just finished reading a biography of Einstein, so I feel I’ve connected with Einstein’s vibes. I’ve been reading about Oprah Winfrey too. I like the way she’s dealing with stuff.
Where brews the best coffee in the UAE?
The Lime Tree Café. That’s my place of inspiration.
Who in your life inspires you the most?
Myself. It might sound strange, but I feel that everyone is a miracle from God. If you notice yourself as a miracle, you’ll be inspired by yourself.
Who’s your favourite social media influencer?
Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Ali bin Rashid Al Nuaimi [the Green Sheikh].
What advice do you give to your children?
Find yourself. My role is only to give them guidance, but it’s their responsibility to find themselves and ask questions.
Which car do you drive?
A grey BMW 7 series, one of the first batch that arrived in the new model. It was a dream of mine to own this car.
Published: September 21, 2016 04:00 AM