x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

'Who stays and helps the UAE grow? It's us'

Fatma Al Shabibi, 35, is the brand ambassador for the Kempinski Hotel at the Mall of the Emirates - the "lady in red".

Fatma Al Shabibi with guests at the hotel. Sarah Dea / The National
Fatma Al Shabibi with guests at the hotel. Sarah Dea / The National

DUBAI // Fatma Al Shabibi, 35, is the brand ambassador for the Kempinski Hotel at the Mall of the Emirates - the "lady in red".

She is the first port of call for guests when they arrive. But before she took the job five years ago, she had to convince her family.

She had been out of work since a serious car accident seven years before, and was desperate to earn her own wage - despite the long, antisocial hours and low salary.

"I felt it was a job in which I could do something for my country," she said. "My family objected as they didn't see it as a good place for an Emirati woman because of the engagement with guests."

They gave her a year to prove it was a respectable career. It went well - she was repeatedly awarded employee of the month and the hotel's manager allowed her to work only five days a week to help ease her family's concerns.

"Many people come here and must see that locals work," she said. "Foreign workers come and go but who stays and helps the country grow? It's us."

The mother of two offers guests with warm Emirati hospitality and is one of six nationals at the hotel.

"Many Emiratis from places such as RAK or Al Ain would love to come to Dubai to work in hotels but the hours are long and there isn't much housing," she said.

"It's a big deterrent. The lack of Emiratis isn't because the management doesn't want to hire them, it's because it's not the lifestyle the Emiratis want."

mswan@thenational.ae