Meet the selfless Saudi volunteer determined to stay in the UAE until Covid-19 fight is won

Abdurrahman Al Magrani decided to volunteer at Covid-19 screening centres in Dubai when he was unable to return home to Riyadh when air travel was halted

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When Abdurrahman Al Magrani landed in Dubai from Saudi Arabia on March 14 last year, he intended to stay for only a matter of days to visit his three children.

But as Covid-19 infections soared across the globe and air travel was grounded to limit its spread, he – like millions of others – found 2020 had something altogether different in store for him.

A short visit has stretched into an 11-month stay that he has vowed will not end until the pandemic has been overcome.

As Mr Al Magrani was unable to return home to Riyadh due to the flight ban, he lost his job with a real estate company in Riyadh.

But he was grateful to discover his true calling in supporting the UAE's fight against the coronavirus.

I feel unlimited loyalty towards this country

Within a week of arriving in Dubai, he started to volunteer at Covid-19 screening centres.

Since then, he has clocked up more than 3,000 hours welcoming patients, taking their temperature and guiding them through testing procedures.

“In Ramadan, I had a chance to go home, but I did not want to,” he said.

"Due to the beautiful values I have experienced during the fight against Covid-19, I vowed to stay until health officials announce the pandemic is over.

“If I had gone back to Riyadh when I had the chance, I might have been able to secure a new job, but I preferred to stay here and continue fighting the virus,” he said.

He said he was touched by the way the UAE government had handled the pandemic, and how the leaders supported those in need.

“This really influenced me. Especially when the UAE was the first country to step up and bring hundreds of stranded students from Wuhan to Abu Dhabi.”

Health workers on the frontlines of the fight against Covid-19:

Last March, in a major humanitarian operation, the UAE flew out of China 215 foreign students who had been stranded there due to the pandemic.

In co-ordination with the Chinese government, the students were brought from Hubei province to Abu Dhabi.

"I have also been supported by many friends while staying here, I will never forget them for standing by my side," said Mr Al Magrani.

His parents and siblings back in Riyadh also support his decision to remain in the Emirates.

"In the beginning, they were urging me to go back, but when they saw my determination to stay for a good cause they encouraged me to continue."

“I feel unlimited loyalty towards this country.”

He said he had witnessed many acts of kindness and solidarity during his hours working at screening centres.

“In the beginning of the pandemic, for instance, if someone showed up at the testing centre and could not afford to get tested, we used to assure them that they would be exempt from the fees," he said.

“Or when an elderly person came crying that they did not have an appointment but needed to get tested urgently, we took them by the hand and led them through the process.”

He said he was overwhelmed by how his fellow volunteers “sacrificed many things to be there in the frontline".

"Some did not see their families for months, and some got infected with the virus, yet returned to volunteer after recovering."

Even though Mr Al Magrani originally came to the UAE to see his children, he hasn’t been able to visit them much during his stay.

“They are staying with their mother, my ex-wife, in Abu Dhabi. Since entry to the capital has been restricted, I have only visited them on certain occasions.”

Mr Al Magrani has three sons, aged 8, 4 and 3.

“I had always heard people say they wished they could live in the UAE,” he said.

"The maximum time I used to spend here during my previous visits was a week, and I did not understand why living here was a dream."

"But since I've been living here for the past months, I now know why they considered it a dream. Now I don't want to leave."