x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

A new Renaissance

A profile of Mohamed Al Qadhi, an Emirati philanthropist from Abu Dhabi.

Mohamed Al Qadhi, who hopes to change with Arab world with the Renaissance Project. Delores Johnson / The National
Mohamed Al Qadhi, who hopes to change with Arab world with the Renaissance Project. Delores Johnson / The National

Mohamed Al Qadhi has set himself a tough challenge. He wants to change the world. The Arab world.

The 27-year-old is the founder and head of The Renaissance Project in Abu Dhabi, set up two years ago to encourage the Arab region and its citizens to be the best that they can be.

“The project is about saying renaissance will happen if you focus on the good people and human development in the Arab world,” says Al Qadhi, who is also a socio-economic consultant for the Government.

“It’s about instilling the right ethics and morals in them, and giving them the opportunity to do good.”

A major part of the project is its scholarship programme, which enables bright but financially disadvantaged youngsters to go to university. At the moment, it’s limited to Jordan because it’s “relatively poor but stable”, but Al Qadhi wants to increase the number of the beneficiaries and expand to Iraq in the near future.

“The project is about taking them and putting them through university,” he says. “All you need to do is study something that most Arabs aren’t studying. Most are studying business or IT; very few are doing genetics or chemical engineering.”

The project is not a registered charity and therefore relies on supporters to donate their time rather than money. The money for the scholarships has, so far, come from Al Qadhi’s pocket. There’s also a strong religious element to the project.

“I want to make people aware of their history and their culture, I’m talking about thousands of years in the past.

“My father would tell me stories about the Arab world and Islamic world of the past. I learnt about this amazing time that was this region thousands of years ago. I want to encourage this again.”

Favourite book?

My favourite is the Quran. My favourite non-religious book, which I loved reading, is The Great War for Civilisation by Robert Fisk. It highlights some of the major struggles that we are facing currently. It’s a book that you pick up and it tells you that you need to do something.

Favourite place to travel?

The best place I’ve been is China. It was just so different, especially the Great Wall of China. I remember people stopping me and taking photos of me every 10 minutes. I felt like I was on another planet, in a good way.

Favourite food?

A steak at The Meat Co. I love steaks. Medium-to-well-done fillet steak with pepper sauce.

One item that you can’t live without?

Is it bad to say my car? I’m absolutely in love with my car. I know, I’m a typical local. It’s a black Dodge Challenger SRT with 500 horsepower. I have been in love with that car since I was a kid, so as soon as I could afford to buy it, I did.

Favourite sport?

I’m a bit of a sport fanatic. Anything combat-related – Ultimate Fighting Championship, wrestling, whatever it is. I’m also in love with Barcelona Football Club, but since 2009 [after the club was purchased by Abu Dhabi United Group], Manchester City have become my second favourite.

Your biggest inspiration?

My father. I’m not the kind of person who is biased in whom I appreciate, but I do feel he has done quite a lot, going from someone who didn’t have any privileges when he was growing up. He educated himself and went abroad to study. He was director of Abu Dhabi Municipality for many years. For me, I feel because I have more privileges, I have to make sure I achieve even more.

Favourite film?

Braveheart. I remember watching it when I was young and I was astounded by the drama and the action.

munderwood@thenational.ae

• For more information, visit www.the-renaissance-project.com

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