ABU DHABI // A leadership summit for young Muslims during the summer persuaded Najla al Nahdi that she needed to do something for her country.
Volunteering to help at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was her way of expressing that patriotism.
"This is my country's way of showing the world what it is made of, and I want to be a part of that," the 30-year-old Emirati said.
Her journey began in London, at the summit held by Mosaic, an organisation for Muslims founded by the Prince of Wales, which works towards a more integrated society. The event inspired her to sign up with Takatof, the volunteering arm of the Emirates Foundation. Her first assignment involved guiding visitors, offering customer service and handling emergencies in the grandstand area of the Formula One event.
"I thought, I am not exceeding my miles in life or doing anything for my country, and I needed to take another step and wake myself up," she said. "I used to meet people and just think that I am not doing anything very challenging or worthwhile, that I am just going to work, coming back and going to sleep."
Takatof recruited more than 1,700 people this year to act as greeters, chauffeurs, grandstand supervisors, location guides and marshals for buses. Ms al Nahdi was in charge of overseeing about a dozen other volunteers in the role of team leader.
"Even though it is her first event, Najla has shown that she can handle the responsibility and has the spirit we want to convey to the visitors," Ahmed al Hosani, her area supervisor, said.
Ms al Nahdi admitted she had little interest in F1.
"I am not a fan and do not care about cars, but when my friends find out that I am here and seeing everything on the spot, they are so jealous," she said. "I feel this is my duty for my country, and even if it is a small thing, it comes from my heart and makes me feel happy."
She was assigned to work from 7am to 10pm. She said she was not as excited to see the races as she was to hear them.
"Everyone has told me about the car's voice when it screams by," she said. "I guess that is just a great example of something new that I have learnt."