Off hours: Abdulla Al Gurg of the venerable Dubai conglomerate

With a set of golf clubs given to him by Tiger Woods in his office and dreams of being a restaurateur in London or the PR for Vogue, Abdulla Al Gurg, the general manager of Easa Saleh Al Gurg, leads a colourful business life.

Abdulla Al Gurg is the group general manager of the Dubai conglomerate Easa Saleh Al Gurg. Victor Besa for The National
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Abdulla Al Gurg is the group general manager of the Dubai conglomerate Easa Saleh Al Gurg, one of the oldest and most venerable of the emirate’s family businesses with interests in construction, real estate, consumer products, retail and lifestyle. Its international partners include some of the biggest names in global business such as Siemens, Unilever and British American Tobacco. The Emirati, 34, has four children, three boys and a girl aged between two to 12.

What are your favourite things to do at the weekend?

My ideal weekend involves spending time with family and friends. I enjoy entertaining my guests at home if I am not at a gathering, then going to the beach with my children or hitting the gym would be an ideal relaxing weekend. I enjoy the beach at Mina A’Salam hotel in Madinat Jumeirah and often go there. The kids love the Sinbad club. I have four children, all under 12 years old, so that is the kind of thing they love to do.

What do you consider to be your favourite hobbies?

Fitness is a passion. If I am not exercising at the gym, then a run or walk on the beach is my next option. But at the moment I’ve got a knee problem – showing off too much in the gym did something to it.

What can’t you live without?

It is easy to get caught up in day-to-day life and lose touch with people, but I am a people person. With the technology available today, there is no excuse to not stay in touch. It has been said that people with friends tend to live longer. That makes a lot of sense when you think about it. If one has a strong support system that one can count on, life is a lot better. No matter what happens, one must keep relationships with family and friends alive. I also like to have some time to myself a few times a week, mainly for exercise, but I don’t think I’m an introvert. Where do people like that get their sense of joy?

What is your favourite gadget?

Well, I don’t know if it counts but I am passionate about cars. Can you call a Lamborghini a gadget?

What do you consider the secret to your success?

Taking care of yourself. When we don’t sleep or eat well, shun exercise and are living off adrenalin for too long, our performance suffers. Our decisions suffer. Our company suffers. I believe in working hard but also having that sense of balance and making space for life outside the workspace. It is always best to simplify life. There will always be a less complicated solution. More importantly I believe it is essential to switch off and recharge.

How did you become general manager?

I began my career working for the government of Dubai and then went to work for Dubai Holding on projects like the Tiger Woods development and Dubailand. But the family came calling in 2008 and it was time to take up my responsibilities here.

What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?

The importance of humility for effective and fearless leadership cannot be understated. Today more than ever, it’s important not to confuse confidence with arrogance, or humility with a lack of aggressiveness. They are extremely different. Showing humility is a sign of strength, not weakness. Beware of the notion that because someone seems “nice” they aren’t aggressive. Always remember to listen to another’s point of view. We aren’t always right. In fact, we are more wrong than right and that is what makes us human.

What do you have on your desk at work?

Just the usual boring stuff, but I do have a set of golf clubs in the office. Not that I play very much, or very well, but they were a gift from Tiger Woods and they have good memories for me.

If you weren’t running the company what else would you be doing?

I love to live well and eat healthy. Hence, if I were not heading the operations of my family business, I would have been a restaurateur. Maybe a brasserie in London or somewhere else in Europe, and I could go out to get the groceries every morning on my bicycle. The food of choice would be organic treats or a juice bar with interesting mixes. Or what about being the PR for something glamorous, like Vogue magazine?

Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?

Languages. I think they are very important. We have business partners in Germany, Spain and Italy and I’d love to learn their languages. I learnt some French at school but it’s not enough really. I also want to make sure my children learn Arabic properly; it is so easy to neglect it in a cosmopolitan place like Dubai. I’ve hired an Arabic teacher for them to help them learn.

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