What is friendship? 11 successful people on mutual respect and BFFs

On the occasion of International Friendship Day, we asked restaurant owners, fashion models and artists who they consider their best friend

'Real friendship is someone who you consider family,' says model Mariah Idrissi, left, on her best friend Nylah
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To mark International Friendship Day on July 30, The National asked people from myriad industries, from artists and foodies to designers and fashion models, what the friendship means to them, and who the one friend is that ticks those boxes.

The responses may have ranged from siblings and spouses to friends made in childhood and via professional circles, but the overarching sentiment remains an appreciation of unconditional support.

Mariah Idrissi, model

“I consider my best friend Nylah as a true friend. We've been friends from the age of 6 and we’ve never fallen out to the point that we've stopped talking in all these years. Real friendship to me is someone who you consider family, and want the best for them the way you would want for yourself.”

Laura Hammett, interior designer

“As cliche as it is, my husband Aaron really is my best friend, and I don’t think there’s anyone else I could run a business with so successfully. Most people we speak to about working together as a couple seem horrified at the prospect, but for many reasons we couldn’t have it any other way.

"One of our strongest qualities as a couple has always been that we assume the best of each other at all times. Complete trust is the key to any friendship in my eyes and gives you the ability to be unapologetically yourself without any risk of judgment or criticism. And humour! No matter what life throws at you, you always need to be able to find a way to have a laugh. There’s no one who can lift me up when I’m down like Aaron.”

Mitch Perera, off-roading expert

“Being a petrol head by birth, most of my friends in the UAE are car guys and girls. Among them, Zlatko Mulabegovic stands out – and is someone I met many moons ago at an Autocross event in 1996. We share the same passion, which I think is important in great friendships, as well as some other qualities.

"For instance, good friends accept you for who you are, and stick around during the good times and the bad. Zlatko has helped me in my difficult times and encouraged me to move on.

"True friends will also always make the time to see you, especially in a city as busy as Dubai. And finally, a real friend will tell you the truth, even if you don't like it. This is an admirable quality, and Zlatko and I debate a lot about many things, especially when it comes to American muscle cars and trucks (me) and JDM and Euros (him).”

Jessie Bremus, manager, F45 fitness

“Siobhan Boffey. This girl is my person. She currently lives more 9,000 kilometres away, in Perth, but distance has never mattered to us. I keep moving, but she always has a place for me when I can get to her.

"In the past decade we have seen and been through it all. We have had good times and hard times, late nights out and dinner dates in. We have seen each other through engagements and fur babies, then weddings and real babies … and after everything keeps changing, she is always there, even if it’s just on a Zoom call.”

Kristel Bechara, artist

“I am incredibly fortunate to consider my sister, Juliana, as one of my dearest friends. She is someone who I have not only shared the joys of my childhood with, but also the highs and lows of my adulthood.

"As we are quite close in age, we are often mistaken for twins and that always cracks us up. Growing up together, we were two peas in a pod and funnily enough that has not changed to this day. Jules is my support system, and her advice is something that I value and count on, which I think is essential for any everlasting friendship. It is truly a blessing that both of us have found unwavering friendship in our sisterhood, and I look forward to making more memories with her.”

Nigora Normatova, health coach, The Dreamwork Collective author and founder of Eat The Sun Global

“I have many incredible people around me, but there is one particular person in my life, Sarah Lewis, whom I connect with beyond even the meaning of friendship. She’s a business coach and every time we spend time together, I grow an inch. We bounce off ideas, we bounce off philosophical concepts, we support each other in every challenge and remind one another of our true self, our true potential. She hears me, I hear her.

"There is utmost respect for one another, and most importantly there is a joyous experience every time we gather. Friendship is truthful and enjoyable when your values are aligned, when your interests are common and when one is able to hear the other.”

Marcela Sancho, co-founder, House of Pops

“I met Monica one summer at the beach in Costa Rica, during school holidays. We simply connected and from that moment on, we have been very much present in each other’s life. Even though we live miles and miles away, she has always supported me unconditionally, in all my crazy ideas, projects and adventures; when time and distance allows she joins in, too.

"She has my back no matter what, and is not hesitant to offer a reality check when needed. She is one of the most loyal people you can meet, with one of the biggest hearts. I admire her tenacity and the way she faces life.”

Vicky M Sethi, managing director, King Group Hospitality

“A friend is someone who understands you without you needing to express yourself. Things are never scary if you have a true friend by your side. I find that friend in fashion designer Troy Costa, because he would always walk in at the times where the rest of the world walked out.”

Junaynah El Guthmy, model

“I was lucky enough to grow up with my best friend, Zeyanah. A lot of people credit our closeness to our biological bond, but we make a conscious decision every day to be each other's companion and confidant irrespective of being sisters.

"Friendship to me is mutual respect, value, understanding, care, effort, honesty, comfort, security, support and joy. Zeyanah goes above and beyond on all counts. The relationship my sister and I have worked so hard to build is unequivocal. To know she’s always there for me when I need it most while simultaneously giving me the privilege of reciprocating is possibly the most valuable asset in my life.”

Tania Lodi, founder, Tania’s Teahouse

“Cheesy as it might sound, one person I’d consider a true friend is my husband, Maaz Shaffi. To me, friendship is ultimate comfort, unconditional love and support, respect, common interests, an alignment of values and a high tolerance for my lame puns. I can be my absolute quirky, oddball self with him and he also helps me a lot with my cafe, Tania’s Teahouse, and is super-empowering and motivating towards my career.

"A true friend is someone who can be your companion through thick and thin, helps you be the best version of yourself, and makes all the nuances of life worth living. Along with the serious stuff, having someone to dance around the house with in PJs after a good day of work and being your partner in crime in finishing a whole bag of flaming hot Cheetos together on a bad day are added perks of your best bud.”

Abdallah Al Shami, partner at film company Mad Solutions and director at Arab Cinema Centre

“I've been very fortunate to have great friends in my life, at every stop through my personal and professional destinations. For me, a true friend is a person who never changes their mantle, despite hardships or times of prosperity.

"The first person who comes to mind is my friend Amira Hassan. I’ve known Amira since 2001 and she's one of the most consistent people I've met; her core element has always been intact. That's a true friend.”

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