My UAE: Photographer Mona Al Tamimi is a picture of harmony
From rousing sunsets over the Dubai skyline to a cheetah feasting on its prey, the photographs taken by Mona Al Tamimi are giving her a sizeable following on Instagram.
Al Tamimi’s photography hobby fits in well with her job as vice president of marketing and corporate communication for the property developer Deyaar, because her position requires her to travel extensively. It’s the perfect fit for a budding photographer with a passion for travel.
Al Tamimi, 39, is a member of the first generation of Emirati women who have the freedom and the financial means to be able to travel the globe extensively. “It’s true that not many women were able travel much in the past, and if they did, they didn’t talk about it,” she says. “But now it is becoming normal for Emirati women to explore the world.”
Al Tamimi’s travel destinations usually depend on her mood. “For shopping and chilling out, it’ll be Europe – usually Switzerland or London. For relaxing after work pressures, I go to the Maldives – I’ve been there more than five times. If I want adventure, it’s a safari.”
Al Tamimi recently returned from her third visit to Africa, a work trip during which she followed with a safari in the Masai Mara. “We held a roadshow in Nairobi with our sales team, as we have some premium hospitality hotel apartments in Kenya that we’re selling to high-end investors,” Al Tamimi explains. “I loved the Masai Mara and can’t wait to return, there was so much to photograph there. It was amazing.”
Al Tamimi’s most recent destination was Shanghai where she represented her company at an exhibition for the Dubai Property Show, “targeting Chinese people to come and buy in Dubai”.
“I’ve also been to India three times to promote our properties,” she adds.
When she’s travelling for fun, Al Tamimi is often joined by one of her four younger sisters, one of whom is an architect, one an accounts manager and two who work for Emirates airline. She also sometimes travels with her two brothers (a policeman and an engineering student), or her mother and father, who are retired. “I’m very attached to my family,” she says. “My parents both influenced me and my sisters to be successful at our careers, encouraging us not to be lazy. They drilled it into us to always get to work on time.”
It was a lesson that wasn’t wasted on Al Tamimi, who, after graduating with a degree in computer engineering from the University of Sharjah, worked for Dubai Islamic Bank and National Bonds Corporation before taking on a communications role at Deyaar. She also recently completed a masters in strategic marketing from the University of Wollongong. “I wanted to return to studying to make sure that what I’m doing is how it should be done. The master’s gave me more trust in myself.”
The aspect of her job that Al Tamimi enjoys most is being actively involved in her company’s CSR initiatives, from taking female staff out for bowling and dinner on International Women’s Day, to building a school in Nepal following the 2015 earthquake.
“We stayed in the homes of Nepalese people and ate with them too. We supplied them with the equipment they needed, and they built the school themselves. They were very nice to us, and very happy, despite what they’d been through. We’re still in contact with them today.”
A trip to Senegal is lined up for October to help build a school there, through Dubai Cares, and before the end of the year, Al Tamimi hopes to hold her first photo exhibition. “I’m thinking that I should, because everyone keeps telling me to do that. In our society, as long as you have a dream and you want to achieve it, nothing can stop you.”
When and why did you start taking photographs?
I’ve enjoyed taking pictures since I was a child, but I only bought my first professional camera two years ago after friends kept complimenting me on the photos I was uploading to social media. I didn’t know how to use the camera at first, so I took some workshops in Dubai.
Where do you like to hang out in Dubai?
I always like to try new places. I often go to the Al Fahidi Historical District and walk around the art galleries and cafes. On my way home from work sometimes I like to sit on the beach in Jumeirah.
How do you decide where to go for your next holiday?
I follow a lot of travellers on social media, such as Ama Traveller, a Kuwaiti lady who goes to places off the beaten track with a group of girls. I’ve told her that one day I’ll join her. There are also some Saudi travellers, like Yousef Al Ali, whose travel stories I like to read.
Who else do you follow on social media?
I follow a lot of photographers, also some artists. I like to see Sheikh Hamdan’s posts. I also like to listen to Ahmed Shuqairi, a Saudi guy who advises and motivates people. He travels too and I like to see where he goes.
What destination is on your bucket list?
The United States, but I don’t know how it is right now, with Trump in power. I have friends who go there regularly and they keep trying to encourage me to go too.
What’s the one item you cannot live without?
My mobile, because it contains everything I need – including the Quran. I use it to read what’s happening in the world on social media.
What’s your greatest achievement?
My job, and how I taught myself what I needed to know about marketing.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President, and Ruler of Dubai – his vision and how he always wants us to move forwards. He taught me that there is no stopping. You have to dream, but you also have to work hard to make your dreams come true. I’ve seen him at exhibitions, awards and conferences, but I’ve not yet met him face to face.
Which book has had the biggest impact on your life?
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s book, My Vision: Challenges in the Race for Excellence. I especially enjoyed reading the section on leadership skills. That affected me a lot, to know the way that you should treat your colleagues, how ambitious you have to be and how you have to move forwards.
What’s the best holiday you’ve had?
I really enjoyed my safari in Kenya. It was a real adventure and has inspired me to go on more adventures. We got to see not just the animals, but to meet the people in the villages and see how they lived.
How do you like to keep fit?
I go to the Fitness First gym near my home in Mirdiff.
How to you like to unwind?
I take lessons in drawing and painting at Ductac. I used to paint when I was at school and now I’ve rediscovered it. I like to paint landscapes, sailing boats and traditional features, like old wooden doors.
When you tell people you meet when travelling that you’re from Dubai, how do they usually respond?
They often tell me that they have friends working there. They say: “You have a very strong and ambitious leader, and everyone knows him – Sheikh Mohammed.” I feel very proud to be from Dubai. When I travel to less fortunate countries, I think we live in paradise. We live in a place where there is peace, security, excellent Rulers – Alhamdulillah, everything people dream of in other countries.