A chance encounter with an ageing tycoon provides useful life lessons

Some useful advice as we emerge out of the holy month

Cropped shot of an unrecognizable man leaning on his walking stick. Getty Images
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I have been thinking about omelettes lately. Now that Ramadan is over I can once again tuck into this oily treat, even if it means having to pop a couple of antacid tablets afterward.

That is not the primary reason though – these thoughts of eggy delights were prompted by a chat with a friend during suhoor earlier this week. Said friend and I were discussing the foods we were looking forward to most post-Ramadan and agreed that a tasty omelette was right up there alongside coffee and buffalo wings of course – OK, I'll admit it, the buffalo wings were my suggestion.

Our chat gave rise to my friend – an experienced Abu Dhabi hotelier –recalling a story involving the popular egg dish. The story resonated with me and is one I thought useful to share, especially as we take stock at the end of the holy month.

The story goes that a few days before Ramadan was called, an old Swiss businessman was having recurring flashbacks about one of his favourite culinary experiences, one that involved consuming an omelette at a luxury Abu Dhabi hotel in the company of a few of his friends. As he ate he surveyed the city’s coastline.

The man often shrugged off such memories, but over time they grew sharper and more urgent.

Like any successful businessman, he opted to tackle the burning issue, so he assembled the group of friends from that Abu Dhabi work trip, telling them of his plans.

“He sat them down and said that later that evening they would take an overnight flight on his private jet and head to our hotel to have breakfast and then fly straight back”.

They all boarded the flight and when they touched down in the capital, the group was greeted on the tarmac by a waiting limo. Before too long the businessman was back in his happy place, seated in the same spot with the same friends, enjoying the omelette that had mentally tormented him for months.

Word of the eccentric breakfast party reached the office of my hotelier friend, who went down to greet them. “The man told me to sit down and join him,” he recalled.

What my friend thought would be spirited conversation became something much calmer.

As they sat, the businessman kept looking at the ocean, his eyes misty as he reflected on a life that had just reached more than 100 years, a time-span that had seen its share of huge business successes and a string of personal failures.

“How old are you?” the man asked my friend. “Thirty-six,” he replied.

“I have over a billion dollars to my name,” stated the businessman. “What would you say if I gave you all of it so I can be your age and you be mine?”

The hotelier took a while to respond before shaking his head resolutely.

The businessman smiled knowingly. “I am getting old, and when you reach my stage you realise time flies so fast and you wonder about the things you did and didn’t do,” he said sentimentally.

“You are doing well to have this position for your age. But my advice has nothing to do with business: be content. Be satisfied with what you have. Don’t over-dramatise everything in your life. Try your best and let things go. Don’t be stingy with your smiles.

“Laugh a lot and enjoy the simple things while you can – like having an omelette in beautiful city like Abu Dhabi.”


Read more of Saeed's thoughts:

How storytelling reveals who we are and creates bonds between us

The three golden rules when eating an iftar buffet

Finding kindness across the UAE during Ramadan

How speaking in Arabic will add colour to my vocabulary this Ramadan

Abu Dhabi has become a home very far away from home for many expats