A patriotic grandmother is on a mission to share her nation's rich traditions with future generations — and ensure the art of Emirati etiquette is never lost.
Fatima Al Mughani fondly recalls how her late "role model" grandfather would take precious care of his country's customs, from offering the perfect greeting to serving the right cup of coffee, and ensuring everyone got a warm welcome and was lent an attentive ear.
Inspired by the values of generosity and good manners he instilled in her, she determined she would follow in family footsteps.
Born in a quiet, close-knit neighbourhood in Kalba, Sharjah, Ms Al Mughani is out to ensure the vital heritage she was brought up with do not fall by the wayside during the nation's relentless march forward.
“My grandfather is my role model and the one who taught me everything about our beautiful traditions and good manners which is part of our culture and heritage,” said Ms Al Mughani, 61.
“I used to observe him instructing others on the right way to treat guests and show them respect, which can be demonstrated in many ways including the handshake, greeting people, serving coffee and starting a conversation.”
Championing community causes was at the heart of Ms Al Mughani's career, and she didn't rest on her laurels after retirement in 2011.
Viewed as a guardian of Emirati culture, she was invited by various government bodies in Sharjah and other emirates to pass on her knowledge to future generations.
She estimates she has trained thousands of students and tourists in Emirati etiquette, known as 'Al Sina', offering valuable insight into how to conduct yourself at a majlis and how to enter and leave as a guest at an Emirati household.
Such has been her success, she is launching her own training centre in Sharjah next year.
“I have trained more than 4,000 students and tourists, aged between 7 and 70 years old, during the past years and I will be opening my own Emirati etiquette and culture training centre in Khor Fakkan next year, with the support of the Sharjah government,” said Ms Al Mughani.
As well as ironing out the key do's and don'ts for people keen to embrace the Emirati way of life, it is the communal spirit of her people that she is eager to celebrate and share.
Ms Al Mughani warmly tells of how the neighbourhood used to be a one big family.
“We were always there for each other as one big family. All the families used to share food together, laugh together and give comfort to one another in the tough days,” she said.
“I remember my mother standing by our neighbour after her husband passed away and how all our female neighbours use to visit her every Eid and invite her over iftar in Ramadan.
“I kept all these memories and took the decision to pass them on to the next generations to teach them that the Emirati etiquette and traditions are based on daily practised manners that show respect, kindness, and generosity.”
Ms Al Mughani lived in a big house with 22 siblings and her grandfather insisted that she should continue her education.
“He used to accompany me to school every day no matter what the circumstances were. He believed in the importance of education for women, although he didn’t receive any education himself.”
Ms Al Mughani started work at Khor Fakkan Social Development Centre after she finished high school in 1979, and went on to be its first female manager.
In 1986, despite the challenges of juggling her career with her own busy family life, she secured a degree in education and psychology from United Arab Emirates University.
“I couldn’t stop pursuing my education even after my grandfather passed away and I managed to fulfil his dream and mine to continue my studies and be a bachelor’s degree holder while being a mother of three,” said Ms Al Mughani.
"In 2008, I managed to obtain a master's degree as a grandmother and of course I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband and children,” she said.
Ms Al Mughani's passion for helping others has never left her.
She has excelled at volunteering work and was widely praised for her sterling efforts to support her community as a member of Sharjah Consultative Council.
“Volunteering and spreading kindness and good deeds are part of us as humans and of our culture as Emiratis,” she said.
“I started my volunteering work while working at the social development centre and will keep doing it as long as I can.
“I was very fortunate to experience life before and after the union and to witness the great developments and prosperity that took place after the union and I learnt so much through all of it.”