Sharjah's first female Emirati car mechanic on how she's changing the car repair business

Huda Al Matroushi has always had a passion to fix engines, from toy cars to Toyotas

Huda Al Matroushi is one of a handful of Emirati women who own and run a car garage in the UAE.

Driven by curiosity at an early age, the 36-year old first opened the business in Sharjah last year.

As a child, the mechanic said, her passion to fix cars kept her up at night.

She lay in bed wondering why things work as they do, and why one machine might break while another might not.

Curiousity led Ms Al Matroushi to her position as Sharjah's first female Emirati car repair shop owner.

I had one customer try to immediately hang up when he found out I was a woman and owned the garage

Huda Al Matroushi, Imex Car Service

She recalled that at the age of 9 she was scolded and grounded for being out after midnight in her family's backyard, repairing toy cars.

“It wasn’t just cars. It was everything. I wanted to know why a toy would stop working and I would try to fix it," she said.

"I would put a working toy next to one that wasn’t working and try to figure out why.”

In her teens, Ms Al Matroushi spent her days at garages learning how to fix cars, and in her 20s she studied for her master’s degree in management leadership.

In 2017, she became a licensed broker fixing cars.

Then, after three years, she opened her own garage, Imex Car Service, and became the first Emirati woman to own a car repair shop in Sharjah.

Today, Ms Al Matroushi is determined to change the perception that women should only work in specific businesses or industries.

“Women can do whatever they want to do today.

"It isn’t just about opening a hairdresser or a sweet shop - women can be in any field they want, and I would like to see more women in the auto industry,” she said.

Ms Al Matroushi said that running her repair shop was a challenge at first, but gradually she has built up a name for herself.

“I have my faults like anyone else but I am known to be honest, and that I would never cheat a customer.

"There is also nothing that can’t be fixed,” she said.

Challenging preconceptions about what women can do

Car repair shops often cheat customers by replacing expensive parts with inferior knock-off spares, Ms Al Matroushi said.

“It is unfortunate but it is also very common. Often they will take parts that you don’t even know exist.

"This is how the business is, and it is hard to find an honest garage,” she said.

Her advice to customers is: “Don’t trust everything they tell you.”

Huda Al Matrooshi is the first female Emirati car mechanic to own her own garage in Sharjah. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Huda Al Matrooshi is the first female Emirati car mechanic to own her own garage in Sharjah. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Ms Al Matroushi, whose first car was a Land Rover, does not claim to be an expert.

“Call me a mechanic in training,” she said. “I am always learning, and I learned both by research and trial and error.

"I watch and I learn and I make mistakes like everyone, and I am not ashamed of it.”

Her family was supportive of her ambition to open a car repair shop.

“I paid for it myself and got emotional support from my family which was important. Business was going well until Covid hit, and now it is slowly coming back.

"I get a few cars per month, and while I do hope to profit one day, I know that it could take many years.

"What matters is that I am happy with what I am doing and I am committed to what I do,” she said.

Customers are often taken aback when they see an Emirati woman running a car repair shop.

“I had one customer call me and try to immediately hang up when he found out I was a woman and owned the garage.

"I was sad at first, then I thought it was funny because he kept asking me different things and was surprised that I knew what I was talking about,” she said with a laugh.

She hopes to open a workshop for children to teach them how to fix toy mechanical engines.

“Sadly, many children are on electronic devices these days, and I would like them to move away from that and play with regular toys like we used to do it past.

"I would like them to be interested in how things work and how to fix them,” she said.

Updated: April 14, 2021 06:00 PM


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