Meet the UAE’s first woman forensic expert who solves grisly crimes

Dealing with dead bodies can be gruesome, but Hamdah Al Ali is blazing a trail in the world of forensic science

DUBAI UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 16 NOVEMBER 2020. Expert Assistant, Forensic Engineer Hamdah Al Ali at her laboratory in Dubai Police HQ. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Salam Al Amir. Section: National.
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Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

Hamdah Al Ali is not a schooled forensic expert. The young Emirati is an electrical engineer by training but the thought of sitting behind a desk in a 9-to-5 job never appealed to her.

She always had a passion for unraveling  crimes and recognised the need for precision in investigation.

She knew, though, that getting into forensics was never going to be easy. In the UAE, it is one of the few areas of science in which men outnumber women.

But Ms Al Ali, 25, had the support of her parents to go into  the field, even if that meant looking at decomposed bodies.

“I can’t think of a time when I was not supported and encouraged to excel and choose differently,” she said.

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I was nauseated when I saw a dead body the first time

After gaining a bachelor's degree from the American University of Sharjah last year, she interned with Expo 2020 Dubai for four months and then joined Dubai Police's forensics department.

Ms Al Ali impressed the interviewing panel. They could see she had the passion to solve cases and the courage to handle the gory details.

“I was very excited but also a little tense. I didn’t fully understand the connection between electrical engineering and forensics,” she said.

“But I read and read. With help from colleagues, I started to study and understand how faulty or tampered machinery and equipment could lead to solving crimes.

“If it’s an electric shock case, I would check the circuit in a building, cables, wirings, the board switch and the device itself.

“We take back the device to the lab for extensive examination before preparing a report.”

So far, she has helped solve 15 cases involving electric shocks.

DUBAI UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 16 NOVEMBER 2020. Expert Assistant, Forensic Engineer Hamdah Al Ali at her laboratory in Dubai Police HQ. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Salam Al Amir. Section: National.

On her first day at work, Ms Al Ali had to deal with a case of electrocution.

“It was early in the morning and I was driving to the office when I received the call to reach an accident site,” she said.

“I headed to the location where a man had sustained burns to his face and other parts of his body due to an electric shock.”

It was an unpleasant first experience but Ms Al Ali gave it her best shot.

“I checked the cables, connections and everything related to the incident, and everything was in perfect condition. There was nothing malfunctioning that could have led to the shock,” she said.

Ms Al Ali examined the room and the circuits several times.

“The man had pulled a high-current cable with the main switch still on and burnt himself badly,” she said.

It was on her second assignment that Ms Al Ali saw a dead body for the first time.

“I was nauseated when I saw the corpse. I tried not to look at the dead body – it was my first time,” she said.

“I gathered all my energy and checked the automatic brick loading machine that struck the worker and killed him.

“At first, I was scared and thought I wouldn't be able to handle it, but I found out I was stronger than I thought,” she said

Ms Al Ali’s findings ruled out the possibility of a faulty machine or any foul play.

“It was the negligence of the worker,” she said.

Ms Al Ali said her work has been exciting but she wants to study more.

“By fall 2021, I will pursue a higher degree but have yet to decide on the major and the university,” she said.

“My family is very proud that I’m the UAE’s first woman forensic engineer.

“My youngest brother, who is in Grade Two, told our cousins that the newspapers wrote about me.

“One of my friend’s sisters has decided to join forensics.”

“I’m still figuring out my way at work and life but one thing I have learned on the job is to always think outside of the box.”

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

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