Syrian artist Zahidah Zeytoun Millie paints watercolours in the mangroves of Umm Al Quwain capturing the area’s natural beauty. She says her work also gives her an escape from the bad news from her homeland, where her relatives still live. Antonie Robertson / The National
Syrian artist Zahidah Zeytoun Millie paints watercolours in the mangroves of Umm Al Quwain capturing the area’s natural beauty. She says her work also gives her an escape from the bad news from her hoShow more

Artist’s work inspired by kayaking through mangroves

UMM AL QUWAIN // “Look – a nappy!”

This is not something you expect to hear when visiting areas of natural beauty.

Yet along the route Zahidah Zeytoun Millie chooses to kayak through Khor Al Beidah lagoon, examples of people’s rubbish litters the white sandy beaches.

Among the dark green tufts of low-lying salt-tolerant shrubs that make up the mangroves are also plastic bottles and plates left over from a recent picnic.

Next to the discarded nappy, a small flower with bright yellow petals – Cistanche tubulosa – is in full bloom.

Later, in her painter’s studio, Zahidah displays watercolour sketches that capture the flower’s gentle beauty.

Her regular visits to the salt water mangroves are a way of admiring nature’s ability to flourish despite people’s waste.

Once a week in the early morning, the 45-year-old sets out in her kayak to paint the lagoon and its mangrove-lined channels to create a snapshot of the area for people who do not get the chance to see it up close – the way bright-green and yellow algae settle on the aerial roots of mangrove trees; the way sunlight reflects off the water and the trees’ dark green foliage.

Zahidah started kayaking through the mangroves as a way of coping with the conflict in her home country of Syria.

“It helped me,” says the painter whose mother and sister still live in the war-torn country. “It gave me great relief away from the bad news.”

As Zahidah kayaks deeper into the mangroves, away from the places that are popular with visitors, the area returns to its natural state.

The water is shallow and clear enough to see large crabs darting underneath stones.

A stingray flashes past before disappearing out of sight. Three large turtles stick their heads above the water to breathe.

Navigating through a narrow channel in low tide, Zahidah’s kayak approaches a mudflat covered by what looks like a carpet of algae with thousands of small gastropods.

In the distance, a flock of flamingos are feeding. Eventually mangrove trees, some as tall as five metres, appear along the banks, the exposed roots home to tiny crabs and schools of small fish.

Surrounded by trees, Zahidah ties her kayak and takes out her brushes and paints.

While most people would call her works landscape paintings, she prefers to call them portraits.

“As a tree, I respect it [the mangrove] because it is a pretty tough tree in a tough environment,” she says.

Zahidah is preparing to exhibit her watercolour sketches and oil paintings in November. She hopes that by showing her work she will encourage more people to value the mangroves and protect them.

Stephanie Neville will also take part in the exhibition.

“The idea is to interact with the environment and show love and care,” says the artist, who first saw the mangroves during a skydive in 2009.

“The first thing that struck me was the contrast of the landscape to what we normally associate with the UAE.”

Besides litter, the area is also impacted by people harvesting the mangrove branches, presumably to feed them to their camels.

Umm Al Quwain municipality did not respond to questions about the refuse problem.

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

Citizenship-by-investment programmes

United Kingdom

The UK offers three programmes for residency. The UK Overseas Business Representative Visa lets you open an overseas branch office of your existing company in the country at no extra investment. For the UK Tier 1 Innovator Visa, you are required to invest £50,000 (Dh238,000) into a business. You can also get a UK Tier 1 Investor Visa if you invest £2 million, £5m or £10m (the higher the investment, the sooner you obtain your permanent residency).

All UK residency visas get approved in 90 to 120 days and are valid for 3 years. After 3 years, the applicant can apply for extension of another 2 years. Once they have lived in the UK for a minimum of 6 months every year, they are eligible to apply for permanent residency (called Indefinite Leave to Remain). After one year of ILR, the applicant can apply for UK passport.

The Caribbean

Depending on the country, the investment amount starts from $100,000 (Dh367,250) and can go up to $400,000 in real estate. From the date of purchase, it will take between four to five months to receive a passport. 


The investment amount ranges from €350,000 to €500,000 (Dh1.5m to Dh2.16m) in real estate. From the date of purchase, it will take a maximum of six months to receive a Golden Visa. Applicants can apply for permanent residency after five years and Portuguese citizenship after six years.

“Among European countries with residency programmes, Portugal has been the most popular because it offers the most cost-effective programme to eventually acquire citizenship of the European Union without ever residing in Portugal,” states Veronica Cotdemiey of Citizenship Invest.


The real estate investment threshold to acquire residency for Greece is €250,000, making it the cheapest real estate residency visa scheme in Europe. You can apply for residency in four months and citizenship after seven years.


The real estate investment threshold to acquire residency for Spain is €500,000. You can apply for permanent residency after five years and citizenship after 10 years. It is not necessary to live in Spain to retain and renew the residency visa permit.


Cyprus offers the quickest route to citizenship of a European country in only six months. An investment of €2m in real estate is required, making it the highest priced programme in Europe.


The Malta citizenship by investment programme is lengthy and investors are required to contribute sums as donations to the Maltese government. The applicant must either contribute at least €650,000 to the National Development & Social Fund. Spouses and children are required to contribute €25,000; unmarried children between 18 and 25 and dependent parents must contribute €50,000 each.

The second step is to make an investment in property of at least €350,000 or enter a property rental contract for at least €16,000 per annum for five years. The third step is to invest at least €150,000 in bonds or shares approved by the Maltese government to be kept for at least five years.

Candidates must commit to a minimum physical presence in Malta before citizenship is granted. While you get residency in two months, you can apply for citizenship after a year.


A one-year residency permit can be bought if you purchase property in Egypt worth $100,000. A three-year residency is available for those who invest $200,000 in property, and five years for those who purchase property worth $400,000.

Source: Citizenship Invest and Aqua Properties

Living in...

This article is part of a guide on where to live in the UAE. Our reporters will profile some of the country’s most desirable districts, provide an estimate of rental prices and introduce you to some of the residents who call each area home. 


6.30pm Al Maktoum Challenge Round-1 Group 1 (PA) Dh119,373 (Dirt) 1,600m

7.05pm Handicap (TB) Dh102,500 (D) 1,200m

7.40pm Handicap (TB) Dh105,000 (Turf) 1,800m

8.15pm UAE 1000 Guineas Trial (TB) Dh183,650 (D) 1,400m

9.50pm Handicap (TB) Dh105,000 (D) 1,600m

9.25pm Handicap (TB) Dh95,000 (T) 1,000m

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Azhar Ali (capt), Shan Masood, Abid Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Imran Khan, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Abbas, Yasir Shah, Usman Shinwari

The biog

First Job: Abu Dhabi Department of Petroleum in 1974  
Current role: Chairperson of Al Maskari Holding since 2008
Career high: Regularly cited on Forbes list of 100 most powerful Arab Businesswomen
Achievement: Helped establish Al Maskari Medical Centre in 1969 in Abu Dhabi’s Western Region
Future plan: Will now concentrate on her charitable work

Voy! Voy! Voy!

Director: Omar Hilal
Stars: Muhammad Farrag, Bayoumi Fouad, Nelly Karim
Rating: 4/5


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Stars: Zakaria Inan, Sabrina Ouazani

3 stars

The specs: 2018 BMW R nineT Scrambler

Price, base / as tested Dh57,000

Engine 1,170cc air/oil-cooled flat twin four-stroke engine

Transmission Six-speed gearbox

Power 110hp) @ 7,750rpm

Torque 116Nm @ 6,000rpm

Fuel economy, combined 5.3L / 100km


All matches start at 10am, and will be played in Abu Dhabi

1st ODI, Friday, January 8

2nd ODI, Sunday, January 10

3rd ODI, Tuesday, January 12

4th ODI, Thursday, January 14


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Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

Tips for taking the metro

- set out well ahead of time

- make sure you have at least Dh15 on you Nol card, as there could be big queues for top-up machines

- enter the right cabin. The train may be too busy to move between carriages once you're on

- don't carry too much luggage and tuck it under a seat to make room for fellow passengers

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