Anisa Al Sharif rates 2004 as the most intense year of her career. It was the year she coordinated the social-development section of the Dubai Government’s 2005 Strategic Plan.
“This was the first time that a comprehensive plan was developed for Dubai including all sectors,” she says. “I got the chance to understand the reality and challenges of the social sectors.”
Al Sharif’s contribution was the highlight of 13 years working for the Government. She joined the Executive Office in 2001 and then in 2006, she moved to the team that started Dubai’s Executive Council.
Al Sharif left her post as the director of socio-economic development in 2014. “I needed to take a break after 13 years of hard work to spend quality time with my daughter and rethink my career and life purpose,” Al Sharif says. “I tried to spend more time doing the things I enjoyed – I read more than 30 books, I pulled out old CDs, watched old movies ... and my husband and I started our business, Zoom In Photography.”
The venture, an in-hospital photography service for new parents, was born after their daughter Jana arrived, three years ago.
“We were so overwhelmed and forgot to take any photos. Luckily, the hospital had a photographer who took pictures – those ended up being the only ones we have from her first days,” she says. “This journey has made us think of some ways we can support them even beyond capturing their treasured memories.”
Al Sharif also plans to launch a parenting-support programme. “I’m really hoping I can create a platform to support Emirati and Arab parents, giving them the insights, skills and tools necessary to build strong emotional connections with their kids.”
When not working, she immerses herself in books.
“I was, and still am, a bookworm,” she says. “If anyone is looking for me, they’ll always find me with my head buried in a book.”
What's your all-time favourite film?
Little Women – I read the novel for the first time when I was 12, and fell in love with it. I identified particularly with the character of Jo, and a few years later, I saw the movie, and it became my all-time favourite.
What sort of car do you drive? What does it say about you?
I drive a Mini Cooper. It’s small and easy-going, but strong and sturdy on the road.
What's your favourite holiday destination?
I love Mediterranean countries. Tuscany in Italy is a place that’s always been fascinating to me. I always hoped to retire there in a house on top of the hills, with lots of books and time to write and think.
What's your favourite landmark in the UAE to tell tourists about?
Dubai Creek. A tour in an abra is something that you shouldn’t miss if you want to experience Dubai.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?
Books, seeds to grow vegetables and more books.
What do you do to relax?
I’m an introvert, and I need lots of “me” time to recharge, so reading a good book or watching cooking channels is good for me.
What's the best piece of advice you have been given?
Funnily enough, it’s advice that all travellers hear, but maybe only a few would think of as wisdom: ‘In case of emergency, help yourself before trying to help others’. If you think about it, you can apply it to almost every area in life.
What music do you have on repeat at the moment?
These days I’m listening to a great Arab singer, Rim Banna. Her latest record is amazing, mostly Sufi poems, which I love, and great music. She herself is an inspiration, because she’s fighting cancer at the moment, and going public about it – the pictures of her with her shaved head is inspiring many women around the Arab world.
If you could invite any three people to dinner at your house, who would they be?
Michael Bublé, Sir Ken Robinson (he’s an international education and creativity speaker, and I love the way he challenges the current education systems) and Jamie Oliver. I could listen to these three talking about their passions forever.
What is your favourite food?
I love sushi. I can’t get enough of it.