When Nour Al Sayed was young, all she knew about boats was that her father used one when he went fishing at the weekends. So how did she end up becoming an architect for Al Marakeb, a powerboat manufacturer in the UAE? She explains.
What did you want to do when you were young?
I wanted to be a doctor. I think as I grew older I discovered I didn't have the stomach for it.
You ended up studying architecture at the American University of Sharjah. What attracted you to the subject?
It was a spontaneous decision. I didn't want to study from textbooks. I'm very hands-on. I have always worked with arts and crafts. I taught arts and crafts, so I wanted to do something where there was a lot more model-making and problem-solving.
So how did you go from that to designing boats?
After I graduated, I didn't really want to work in a consultant's office. You're taught to think outside of the box. I wanted to work outside of the box as well. I moved to Italy for a year and I did industrial design. After that, I moved back here, which was about the time that the founder, Basel Shuhaiber, started [Al Marakeb]. He was already building boats when we were in university together.
Why did you decide against designing buildings?
I wanted to do something different. Some people say, 'oh, but you did architecture. Why are you doing boats?' They are pretty much the same thing. But you have the challenge of fitting out the space, you have the hydrodynamics of a boat. So [you start with the] architecture in the sense of designing spaces, functionality, aesthetics, and then add all the structural work, and if you put all that in something that's going to move and going to be safe, it was more of a challenge that I thought was very interesting.
You did not know much about boats when you decided to pursue your career. How did you learn?
I would say 50 per cent came from working, but then again there is the other 50 per cent that came from my background in architecture. That kind of decided what I did in terms of industrial design, because then I specifically chose to learn more about fibreglass and things that are boat related.
You personalise boats also. What was your most unusual request?
Sometimes unusual means … they want to fit so much into it and you have to tell them it's not practical. But then you have to give them something [that works]. We had someone who wanted to fit in a jacuzzi under some stairs. But the space didn't allow it, because I knew all the generators were going to go in that space, so you try to play around with it.
What happened in the end there?
We worked it out. We had to place it on the deck itself.
* Gillian Duncan