This photo taken on April 25, 2018, shows workers making a sand castle on the Philippine island of Boracay.
Boracay has been a top Philippine destination, morphing from a backpacker paradise in the 1980s to an increasingly developed beach resort, fuelled by a quadrupling of visitors in just a decade.  / AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS / TO GO WITH AFP STORY "PHILIPPINES-ENVIRONMENT-TOURISM-BORACAY" BY AYEE MACARAIG
The Philippine island of Boracay. Taking a break to travel before entering the workforce is a positive thing to do. AFP

Taking time out should be part of everyone's education

Why taking a break should be celebrated more in Arabia

With almost everyone on holiday as we celebrate the UAE’s 47th birthday this weekend, I thought it was important to shed a light on the concept of taking breaks in life.

Taking a year after school to go backpacking in Europe, or to find oneself, is not something unheard of in the West. In fact, many high school graduates use that time to intern, find their passion in their life, or simply to just do nothing.

When I obtained my Masters’ degree, I was only 21, and I decided to take a one-year break before I joined the workforce. I had crammed a lot of studying in the past four years that I just wanted to relax, discover where I really wanted to work and try out different things. Sounds fair, right?

It was during that time that I took oil painting and calligraphy classes, learned French, submitted my writing pieces to local publications and started a fashion sideline that eventually became a fulyl-fledged online business.

While my parents were supportive of my decision, many in my social circle were questioning it. “Did you start applying for jobs?,” “Why are you at home?” They weren’t convinced by conscious and deliberate decision to take a break. To them, taking a break was some form of failure. It was going against the norm, especially when you were a young and smart accomplished student.

I remember I was at a dinner event once when one of my mom’s friends, a proud career woman, started asking me about my career plans. I told her that I don’t intend to work for the time being. She was so appalled by my response that I still remember her exact words: “I never thought you’d be a person who wouldn’t want to develop herself, Manar,”

I took that same step again, also deliberately, when I left my role in the government and decided to manage my businesses full time. I wanted to take a break to travel, empty my brain and simply just to relax.

Although my family was also supportive of my decision, some of my friends and acquaintances weren’t. “You’ll be bored,” “What do you mean a break?” or the classic one: “Shouldn’t you know what you want to do with your life by now?”


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When people graduate in the UAE, they are expected to join the workforce straight away and if the organisation is good, specifically if it was in the government sector, they would rarely leave it and basically work their way to retirement.

Taking a break after school or in between jobs to find one’s self or just to relax is unheard of in the UAE and the Arabian Gulf countries in general but I believe that it’s very important and should be considered especially after high school.

In our final years of school, we were so busy with finals that I remember some of my classmates enrolled in college programmes that they may have never pursued if they had proper time to experience that field. What happened later was that some switched courses during their second year,or just suffered, pursuing a major they disliked because they had no other choice.

Taking a year after school to properly explore college degrees, future employment prospects and interning in different organisations to have a sense of what it would be like to pursue accounting or engineering is vital.

Think about how much time and money would be saved instead of having students request to switch majors, or drop out of one college to go to the next. In the end it’s only one year after high school, not 10, and we would have students and young people who are pursuing degrees that they are strongly passionate and excited about.

How I see this done is there should be a partnership or understanding between the Ministry of Education and entities in the UAE where they would take on high school graduate interns and perhaps create an internship programme that involves interning in different entities both public and private based on someone’s interests. At the end of it, the student would have a sense of what degree they want to undertake in university and what sort of career path in the future.

Many entities’ internship programmes only cater to fresh graduates or those in their final years of university, so having a nation-wide scheme that’s aimed at high school graduates is great.

In addition, by doing so, high school students may find it interesting to work in the private sector, thus increasing the number of Emiratis there as well as help the UAE diversity its economy by pursuing new and unconventional career paths.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications firm in Abu Dhabi.

Living in...

This article is part of a guide on where to live in the UAE. Our reporters will profile some of the country’s most desirable districts, provide an estimate of rental prices and introduce you to some of the residents who call each area home.

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5


Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

The biog

Favourite food: Fish and seafood

Favourite hobby: Socialising with friends

Favourite quote: You only get out what you put in!

Favourite country to visit: Italy

Favourite film: Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Family: We all have one!

Bridgerton season three - part one

Directors: Various

Starring: Nicola Coughlan, Luke Newton, Jonathan Bailey

Rating: 3/5


Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

Director: Francis Lawrence

Stars: Rachel Zegler, Peter Dinklage, Viola Davis, Tom Blyth

Rating: 3/5

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8


Director: Andrés Baiz

Starring: Sofía Vergara, Alberto Guerra, Juliana Aiden Martinez

Rating: 4/5

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

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