My UAE: Abdul Aziz Al Tayer and his LA-style gym
When Abdul Aziz Al Tayer decided to convert a Dubai warehouse into a gym with his bodybuilder brother Saeed, he had no idea the effect it would have on the wider community.
Despite having built it as a private fitness facility for themselves, their family and immediate friends, within three months, 24 Fitness was attracting Emirati and expatriate fitness enthusiasts from across the city. Today, more than three years later, the Al Quoz gym is one of the most popular in the country.
"When I was 19, after high school, I went to Los Angeles to study and began taking an interest in fitness there," explains Al Tayer, a 32-year-old Emirati businessman.
"I fell in love with fitness. Once you get a nice body and shape and you are fit, you don't want to go back to how you looked before. After I graduated I came back to Dubai and my brother and I started training together for three hours a day.
"We decided to open a gym, LA-style. We have a big family and a large group of friends. We didn't want to make money - it was a hobby. We just wanted our friends and family to come and then we would pay the rent and expenses."
Today, with demand high to host more classes and more machines, Al Tayer intends to extend it even further this year.
With a passion for fitness comes a passion for healthy food. Ten years ago, he opened Subway branches in Jumeirah. Now, he has taken that passion a step further with his new venture, HEAT Cafe & Grill, teaming up with former US Olympic weightlifter and Dubai-based personal trainer Derrick Branford.
"When we opened the gym, we didn't do it for the money, and the same goes for HEAT Cafe & Grill," says Al Tayer. "I'm a great believer in doing what you like to do, and then the money will follow."
How would you describe your style?
When I go to meetings, or if I go anywhere, I like to dress in jeans and a T-shirt or even shorts. I don't like dressing up in a suit. I like simple sportswear.
What music do you listen to?
I listen to all types of music but when I'm on the bike I listen to the exhaust: that's my music. It's just the sound of the bike and the wind in your face.
What is your greatest achievement?
It hasn't happened yet.
What is your most prized possession?
My family, of course.
How do you relax?
I like motorcycles, so I take my bike and hit the freeway when I want to relax. I have a Harley Davidson - a 1996 Softail Custom. I took it with me from Dubai when I went to school in America and then brought it back again when I left. I still have it. My dad bought it for me as a gift so I don't want to sell it, or upgrade. I'm not a biker particularly, I just like the bike and the ride.
Do you travel often?
I travel once a month. Often, I go to Thailand - to an island called Koh Samui. I go to get tanned, have nice food, swim and enjoy the weather.
Where is your favourite family meeting place?
We have a meeting every Friday at my dad's house. We are a big family, around 40 people, and on Friday we gather and have lunch together. We have done this all my life. My dad taught us the importance of that. And if I get married then I will continue that tradition with my family.
Who do you most admire?
My mother. I still go to her for advice. I eat lunch at her house twice or three times a week. She always cooks grilled fish, salad and a little white rice: if there's no grilled fish then I don't eat. I always call her first. I am Jumeirah 4, Umm Suqeim 1, born and raised - we have to eat fish (he laughs).
Where do you like to eat?
HEAT Cafe & Grill. My brother first taught me how to eat clean, how many times a day you should eat when you're training. HEAT is the perfect place to go post-workout to enjoy good, healthy food.
What do you drive?
I always have two cars: one is my daily drive - that's a Chevy truck; and my second car is a sports car - I love speed. I had a Lambo LP 640, a Ferrari California, and next month I'm getting my new 2013 Viper with 640hp, venom black.
What do you like to eat?
If it's a zero-carb day, then I like to eat the chicken wrap or grilled chicken breast with salad. In the morning, I have six egg whites with protein pancakes and to drink, I like the protein shake with a shot of espresso. Why? Because it's clean, no fat and tastes good.
Updated: June 20, 2013 04:00 AM