Mohamed Alabbar, the chairman of Emaar Properties, speaks during a presentation in February of the Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Forum for New Ideas at Manarat Al Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi. Christopher Pike / The National
Mohamed Alabbar, the chairman of Emaar Properties, speaks during a presentation in February of the Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Forum for New Ideas at Manarat Al Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi. Christopher PikShow more

Failures make for better leaders, says Emaar Properties chairman Mohamed Alabbar

The man whose company built Burj Khalifa knows a thing or two about scaling great heights in the business world.

Mohamed Alabbar, the chairman of Emaar Properties, shared his story when he gave a talk in Abu Dhabi in February at the invitation of the Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Forum for New Ideas.

Mr Alabbar, 59, started off by showing his audience a black-and-white photo of a dhow, taken in the 1950s when he was a child and Dubai was a quiet fishing port. It was his father’s ship, said Mr Alabbar, who was the eldest of two children raised in Dubai’s Rashidiya area.

“As captain of a ship, my father took risks, he went into the unknown,” Mr Alabbar said.

“He sailed with no GPS system, no weather forecast, there were pirates at sea, and these ships used to leak. Who chooses to sail for days on end with that in mind? You have to be brave and learn how to make big decisions.”

The lessons of his father’s courage were not lost on Mr Alabbar as he navigated through the choppy waters of business in his own career.

After graduating from Seattle University with a degree in finance and business administration, his first job was as a manager for the Central Bank of the UAE in Abu Dhabi. “I got married and had my first child. But I was restless in this city, wanting to do more – I wanted to be active,” he said.

After 25 years in Abu Dhabi, Mr Alabbar accepted a job offer to become the director of Al Khaleej Investments in Singapore, where the government-owned company had significant real estate interests. “It was a completely new environment, and I was eager to learn from this new government and business structure,” he said. “More than anything, in Singapore I learnt to be positive and not to hesitate.”

In 1992, Mr Alabbar, who by then had four children, decided to go back to Dubai with his family.

Upon his return, he was given the role as the founding director of the Department of Economic Development (DED).

Although Dubai at that time was a very different city to the one he had grown up in, it was also a fraction of the size it is today.

“It was a time for change,” Mr Alabbar said. “I took on new government partners and brought in new people who would work day and night, people who had pride in our city. We were dismantling the government system and we were passionate about making a change for our country. We took decisions and we acted to get the results. Continuous action is a must, in anything, in order to succeed.”

In 1996, Mr Alabbar initiated and organised the Dubai Shopping Festival to promote retail trade in Dubai.

As well as serving as a member of the Dubai Executive Council and the Dubai Economic Council, Mr Alabbar was also the vice chairman of Dubai Aluminium Company (Dubal) and Dubai World Trade Centre, and chairman of Dubai Cable Company.

Over the next six years, he said he worked around the clock to fulfil his obligations. “But to me it was not work. I was fulfilling a vision and an ambition, a passion that I have.”

Mr Alabbar says he was not motivated by financial gain. “There was no money in it anyway. The salary was about Dh22,000. It was the love that was really important, the pride that we could do it.”

In 1997, Mr Alabbar founded what became Dubai’s biggest listed property developer, Emaar Properties.

“I had a passion that our city would grow, so that’s how I started my first project, the Dh15 billion Dubai Marina project. Had I done it before? No. Did I have experience? No. I had a lot of love and a passion to learn.”

Emaar Properties’ next project was the Dubai Downtown development, which included the The Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

Construction of Burj Khalifa began in 2004, and continued despite the financial crisis that prevented the completion of several other high-profile building projects between 2007 and 2010, the year Burj Khalifa opened.

“Again, it was not about money or business,” he told his audience. “It’s about that child standing in front of the Burj Khalifa, looking at it and smiling and saying, ‘I belong to a civilised country and I am proud’.”

There were times when Mr Alabbar had his doubts as to whether he was the right man for the job. “I once asked Sheikh Mohammed [bin Rashid]: ‘Have you ever asked me if I have ever built anything like this before in my life?

“Did you ever ask me if I had hired someone who had ever built a building like this?’ He smiled and replied: ‘I trust you.’”

Despite his many achievements, Mr Alabbar spoke candidly with his audience on the subject of failure.

“I invested in the US and lost some money. I didn’t choose my partners well and it was a tough time. The biggest mistake I made was in not bringing in more good people around me earlier, and I am fixing that mistake. You need hungry people around you, hungry people can do things.”

Mr Alabbar said his failures have made him a stronger leader today. “Without failures we would be useless, failure makes you resilient. We grow because of our failures.”

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What is cystic fibrosis?
  • Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects the lungs, pancreas and other organs.
  • It causes the production of thick, sticky mucus that can clog the airways and lead to severe respiratory and digestive problems.
  • Patients with the condition are prone to lung infections and often suffer from chronic coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
  • Life expectancy for sufferers of cystic fibrosis is now around 50 years.
Tightening the screw on rogue recruiters

The UAE overhauled the procedure to recruit housemaids and domestic workers with a law in 2017 to protect low-income labour from being exploited.

 Only recruitment companies authorised by the government are permitted as part of Tadbeer, a network of labour ministry-regulated centres.

A contract must be drawn up for domestic workers, the wages and job offer clearly stating the nature of work.

The contract stating the wages, work entailed and accommodation must be sent to the employee in their home country before they depart for the UAE.

The contract will be signed by the employer and employee when the domestic worker arrives in the UAE.

Only recruitment agencies registered with the ministry can undertake recruitment and employment applications for domestic workers.

Penalties for illegal recruitment in the UAE include fines of up to Dh100,000 and imprisonment

But agents not authorised by the government sidestep the law by illegally getting women into the country on visit visas.

How the UAE gratuity payment is calculated now

Employees leaving an organisation are entitled to an end-of-service gratuity after completing at least one year of service.

The tenure is calculated on the number of days worked and does not include lengthy leave periods, such as a sabbatical. If you have worked for a company between one and five years, you are paid 21 days of pay based on your final basic salary. After five years, however, you are entitled to 30 days of pay. The total lump sum you receive is based on the duration of your employment.

1. For those who have worked between one and five years, on a basic salary of Dh10,000 (calculation based on 30 days):

a. Dh10,000 ÷ 30 = Dh333.33. Your daily wage is Dh333.33

b. Dh333.33 x 21 = Dh7,000. So 21 days salary equates to Dh7,000 in gratuity entitlement for each year of service. Multiply this figure for every year of service up to five years.

2. For those who have worked more than five years

c. 333.33 x 30 = Dh10,000. So 30 days’ salary is Dh10,000 in gratuity entitlement for each year of service.

Note: The maximum figure cannot exceed two years total salary figure.


Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates


Ireland 125 all out

(20 overs; Stirling 72, Mustafa 4-18)

UAE 125 for 5

(17 overs, Mustafa 39, D’Silva 29, Usman 29)

UAE won by five wickets

Mobile phone packages comparison
The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE.

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

Read part one: how cars came to the UAE

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed


Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

Need to know

Unlike other mobile wallets and payment apps, a unique feature of eWallet is that there is no need to have a bank account, credit or debit card to do digital payments.

Customers only need a valid Emirates ID and a working UAE mobile number to register for eWallet account.

Company Profile

Company: Astra Tech
Started: March 2022
Based: Dubai
Founder: Abdallah Abu Sheikh
Industry: technology investment and development
Funding size: $500m

Trippier bio

Date of birth September 19, 1990

Place of birth Bury, United Kingdom

Age 26

Height 1.74 metres

Nationality England

Position Right-back

Foot Right

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE.

Part three: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

Read part one: how cars came to the UAE


All times UAE (+4 GMT)

West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur (3.30pm)
Burnley v Huddersfield Town (7pm)
Everton v Bournemouth (7pm)
Manchester City v Crystal Palace (7pm)
Southampton v Manchester United (7pm)
Stoke City v Chelsea (7pm)
Swansea City v Watford (7pm)
Leicester City v Liverpool (8.30pm)

Brighton and Hove Albion v Newcastle United (7pm)

Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion (11pm)

Aayan’s records

Youngest UAE men’s cricketer
When he debuted against Bangladesh aged 16 years and 314 days, he became the youngest ever to play for the men’s senior team. He broke the record set by his World Cup squad-mate, Alishan Sharafu, of 17 years and 44 days.

Youngest wicket-taker
After taking the wicket of Bangladesh’s Litton Das on debut in Dubai, Aayan became the youngest male cricketer to take a wicket against a Full Member nation in a T20 international.

Youngest in T20 World Cup history?
Aayan does not turn 17 until November 15 – which is two days after the T20 World Cup final at the MCG. If he does play in the competition, he will be its youngest ever player. Pakistan’s Mohammed Amir, who was 17 years and 55 days when he played in 2009, currently holds the record.

Abu Dhabi traffic facts

Drivers in Abu Dhabi spend 10 per cent longer in congested conditions than they would on a free-flowing road

The highest volume of traffic on the roads is found between 7am and 8am on a Sunday.

Travelling before 7am on a Sunday could save up to four hours per year on a 30-minute commute.

The day was the least congestion in Abu Dhabi in 2019 was Tuesday, August 13.

The highest levels of traffic were found on Sunday, November 10.

Drivers in Abu Dhabi lost 41 hours spent in traffic jams in rush hour during 2019



Engine: 1.5-litre

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Power: 110 horsepower

Torque: 147Nm

Price: From Dh59,700

On sale: now


Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends


ATP: 1. Novak Djokovic (SRB) 10,955 pts; 2. Rafael Nadal (ESP) 8,320; 3. Alexander Zverev (GER) 6,475 (+1); 5. Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) 5,060 (+1); 6. Kevin Anderson (RSA) 4,845 (+1); 6. Roger Federer (SUI) 4,600 (-3); 7. Kei Nishikori (JPN) 4,110 (+2); 8. Dominic Thiem (AUT) 3,960; 9. John Isner (USA) 3,155 (+1); 10. Marin Cilic (CRO) 3,140 (-3)

WTA: 1. Naomi Osaka (JPN) 7,030 pts (+3); 2. Petra Kvitova (CZE) 6,290 (+4); 3. Simona Halep (ROM) 5,582 (-2); 4. Sloane Stephens (USA) 5,307 (+1); 5. Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 5,100 (+3); 6. Angelique Kerber (GER) 4,965 (-4); 7. Elina Svitolina (UKR) 4,940; 8. Kiki Bertens (NED) 4,430 (+1); 9. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) 3,566 (-6); 10. Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) 3,485 (+1)


Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5


Dir: Guy Nattiv

Starring: Jamie Bell, Danielle McDonald, Bill Camp, Vera Farmiga

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Company profile

Date started: May 2022
Founder: Husam Aboul Hosn
Based: DIFC
Sector: FinTech — Innovation Hub
Employees: eight
Stage: pre-seed
Investors: pre-seed funding raised from family and friends earlier this year