DUBAI // Though they represent some of the region's brightest minds, each laying claim to a genius-level IQ, they almost failed their first test in their attempt to join the hallowed ranks of Mensa – finding the examination room.
After wandering the maze of corridors in Dubai's Emarat Atrium, five men eventually arrived at a nondescript office to sit an exam last week that could grant them membership to the prestigious high IQ society.
"Finding this place was a challenge," said Sachin Nithyan, a 23-year-old aviation engineering student from India. "I thought it may have even been part of the test."
The prospective members are seeking to join the approximately 40 registered Mensans in the Emirates who are eligible to join regular social activities arranged by a volunteer organising committee.
It is hoped that the tests, which are held every two to three months in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, will increase that number.
"We need at least 50 members before we can operate as an official chapter," said Ronny Labban, a 38-year-old Lebanese computer engineer with an intelligence quotient of 164, who acts as site co-ordinator for members in the capital.
The organisation provides a forum for intellectual exchange among its membership, which represents more than 100 countries around the world. Mensa means "table" in Latin.
There was a faint sense of competition as the five test-takers gathered around a circular table to attack the multiple-choice exam.
Each of them had been rated with an IQ of 140 or above, Mensa's threshold for genius, in previous mock exams. Some said in a tongue-in-cheek fashion that not everyone would be eligible.
"Mensa only takes the top two per cent of the population, which basically rules out lawyers and politicians," said Kerry Hayes, 48, a mechanical engineer who lives in Sharjah and has an IQ of 156.
A handful of different examinations are used to assess eligibility for membership.
However, the Figure Reasoning Test used by the group was designed for international use, meaning that non-native English speakers would not be penalised for butting up against the language barrier.
"It's mostly logic based," said Arun Kumar, a 28-year-old applicant from India who works in sales.
"Squares and circles are the same no matter which language you speak."
Supervising the test was Maryam Ali Saeed Althani, the only Emirati Mensa member. Ms Althani, who has an IQ of 156 and works as an electrical engineer, is responsible for organising the group's social activities in Dubai.
"When people come here they don't know anything about our culture," she said.
"Because I am the only Emirati, I feel this is my duty to represent my country."
The group arranges social activities such as bowling, games nights and cultural evenings and maintains a Facebook group where updates on tests and meetings are posted. Members were treated to iftar feasts during Ramadan.
Instead of being left to discuss issues of world domination at these social events, the great minds of the groups are assigned a theme for each gathering and discussion largely centres around that.
"The social aspect is definitely a plus," said Fahad Osman, a 30-year-old applicant who works in advertising.
"It's nice to cavort with like-minded people."
The test was followed by another yesterday in Dubai for a different group of candidates.
And the next round of testing in Abu Dhabi will be held in a couple of months, Mr Labban said.
The current applicants will know in two weeks whether they have passed after their exams are sent to the UK to be graded by the Mensa board.
Though the reasons for wanting to join the group were different for each person, Mr Hayes put it most succinctly.
"I just want to prove to my kids that I'm not so stupid," he said.