When she took to the stage in Lebanon in the finals of the first series of Arabs' Got Talent, Shayma Ahmed Al Mughairy elicited cheers from the crowds. To dramatic music and moving with speed, she drew a tragic tale of a plane crash, a funeral and a homecoming for burial. The judges showered her with compliments and her smile was wide with pride. She was 17 years old and had already been practising for five years.
"Since I was 3 years old, I have been drawing and when I was 12, I saw sand art on the internet and I wanted to do it," she explains.
Her mother, Raifa Al Ismaili, was bemused by her daughter's request for a glass table on a box of light but eventually, after much pestering, she went to the local carpenter in Umm Al Quwain and had a customised light table built. Seven years later, Al Mughairy's light box is still home-made, as is the box it travels in, the sand container and all the paraphernalia she needs to take with her for a show.
"It all comes from Shayma," explains Al Ismaili. "She thinks of everything and she works really hard. Sometimes I think she must be tired and I try to tell her to rest but she doesn't, she really loves her art."
Her first performance was for the UAE's 34th National Day. She was asked to create a sand painting of the ruler of Umm Al Quwain, Sheikh Saud bin Rashid Al Mualla. It had only been two months since she discovered sand art and she was greatly encouraged by his reaction. Since then, other than Arabs' Got Talent, she has filmed a children's TV show for Al Jazeera in Qatar and has performed for clients ranging from royalty to couples on their wedding day to the Danish hip-hop group Outlandish.
"I also get asked a lot to perform in Ramadan and Eid," she explains. "I feel a huge responsibility whenever I get on stage because first of all, I am a girl, and second, that I am representing the whole Gulf."