x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The Ali Story: Travellers welcome

Ali Al Saloom shares his insight and experiences from growing up in the UAE.

In our daily life we meet many people. Some we notice quickly and build a great bond with them, and others we pass by without even noticing them.

I remember having a conversation with my mother about this, since she always maintained a good relationship with her friends, who were all newcomers to the country. She helped make them feel more comfortable by embracing their new life in our country. She made sure to make them feel at home by keeping in touch, and assisting them with anything they needed for a better and smoother transition to life here.

She said to me once: "Son, people who travel from one place to another seeking money only, will disappear quickly some day just as money will disappear. But when they travel for other reasons, whether in hope of a better life or for a good cause and purpose, they are like messengers sent by God. We always have to do our best to meet these individuals, to embrace them and treat them like a family."

I feel so proud whenever I meet a new person in my life who shares his or her story about why they chose to come to the UAE and how it has been for them, living, working or visiting us here.

Surprisingly, my path always brings me to meet these individuals as if it were fate. People such as Mr and Mrs Wolff, who call Emirates Palace home. I met Mr Wolff more than five years ago by coincidence. I enjoy listenening to his life journey and how he visits the UAE all the time. He loves the summer here, the desert and the culture. He respects our leader's vision and he cherishes our society's values, without even thinking about business. He simply feels this is home. Being a banking guru in his 70s, Mr Wolff shares his financial wisdom today with whomever he meets and encourages many people from his homeland, Switzerland, and other European countries to understand and appreciate the UAE and this region.

Mr Wolff is an individual who never ceases to amaze me with how much he loves, respects and appreciates our culture and values.

I reflect on my mother's words here, and I see they are true. Mr and Mrs Wolff are like a family to me. During the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair last month, I met another individual who left an impression on me even though we met for only an hour. Mrs Fabienne Herbane is a French writer who published a book called Lady Sharjah, sharing her journey, coming from the West to explore the East and finding a treasure of values and beauty in our beautiful emirate of Sharjah.

I remember asking her a few questions about the purpose of her book and why Sharjah, why the UAE? She gave me a warm smile and shared with me how she felt so attached to the people the first time she visited the UAE, especially the women who embraced her like a dear friend or even a sister. She said: "Ali, I don't live in the UAE, but I feel like I'm an ambassador of it. Its culture, its true essence and its beauty lie in the people whom I met here in Sharjah and the UAE. I just feel so blessed to have had this experience and want the world to know about it."

Mr and Mrs Wolff and Mrs Herbane wouldn't know how much of an impact they have had on me and my passion towards bringing cultures closer, which stems from the words my mother said to me more than 20 years ago.

"Son, remember, all of the newcomers to the UAE will all end up unofficial ambassadors of our country just like you when you travel overseas, hence they all deserve to be embraced by us as Emiratis."

These words were said to me by my beloved father, God rest his soul in peace. Today, because of my parents' words and wisdom, I find myself wanting to do more to share my culture with the entire world. And do you know what's amazing about all of this? It's not just me who wants to share my culture with the world. There are many people who, in time, will become ambassadors in spreading the message about our beautiful country and culture as well. God bless you all.