A woman who looks after more than 50 rescued cats and 30 horses in Abu Dhabi aims to open an Airbnb for animal lovers.
Yasmin Sayyed, who has lived in the UAE since 2004, has found a large villa in Al Falah that will house all her rescued cats, with room for guests, who will be welcome to pet the animals and take care of them during their stay.
For the past six years, Ms Sayyed's cats have lived with her in a small cabin on the grounds of a friend’s property in Al Shalila, near Al Rabah.
But the site is now being redeveloped, forcing her to move on.
She hopes the new villa can be converted into a non-profit Airbnb.
“We want to continue to help animals. Sometimes people call me to take in a pet goat or a pet sheep. And I can’t facilitate that just now,” said Ms Sayyed, 47, who is half Greek, half Palestinian, and grew up in Germany.
“The place I have found has a lot of rooms. The goal would be to offer Airbnb for animal lovers. Cats who don’t get enough love from me will get more love from the people who stay there.
“I could make four bedrooms out of it to rent and maybe a meditation and yoga room. So we could do something that would make people feel good so we can help people and animals.”
She hopes the venture will help her cover the cost of keeping her cats, which eat Dh400 ($108) of food every day. She accepts food donations but still struggles to make ends meet.
“Many of them are fluffy,” she said. “We cannot give them cheap food. There are a lot of cats with liver and kidney problems.”
Ms Sayyed also runs Ride to Rescue, a company that rescues and rehabilitates horses in the UAE, generating income through holiday camps for children, riding lessons and beach rides. But there is always a shortfall, she said.
She has 34 horses in her care, only some of which can be ridden. Most of them are housed in stables in Mandara Equestrian Club near Shahama, but she plans to move some of them to another stables in the year to save money.
“We spend more than Dh120,000 each month homing and feeding the horses,” she said.
“We can’t cover this through our rides. We are always minus, minus, minus.
“Last night a horse had colic and I was thinking to bring it to the hospital. But bringing it to the hospital means maybe Dh30,000 or Dh40,000.
“We would like to earn money but it’s not so easy with so many non-working animals. But I believe if people make adoptions and come for riding, it can work out.”
She hopes that one day she will be able to persuade companies and people to sponsor Ride to Rescue to ensure its future.
“If we had four or five companies, it would be a big relief,” she said.
“If people would like to visit us, adopt the cats [it would help]. Horse adoption means they can decide how much to pay. But the horse stays in our care.
“We can determine a time they can come and care for them. And if they have little children maybe they can come and ride them.”
Ride to Rescue will hold an open day at Mandara Stables on June 18. Contact the company on 0564819410 for more information.