UAE Portrait of a Nation: Samson of the Emirates, the Gulf's strongest man
For Hussain Khalil, pulling lorries with his hair or lifting cars with his teeth is all just part of the day job.
The 50-year-old strongman, known as Samson of the UAE, claims to have inherited his “super genes” from his great grandfather Mohammed Hassan.
Even as a young child, the now 120kg heavyweight was a natural when it came to sheer power and muscle.
Friends claim that back then he had the strength of four men, and that today he represents an unstoppable force on the strongman circuit.
“My grandfathers were both men of the sea and they became known for their power and passed it on to their children,” said Mr Khalil.
“Then my uncle Ali Bin Hassan decided to take those same talents further and began practicing strongman stunts in front of audiences and royals. He became known as Samson of the Arabs.”
Growing up, it was clear to those around him that Mr Khalil, an Emirati from Dubai, was born to follow in his uncle’s footsteps.
As a 14-year-old boy, and although only weighing 45kg, he was able to carry massive weights and take on multiple opponents in a single fight.
By 19, the teenager was beginning to learn what he now describes as “the fundamentals of the [strongman] game” from his uncle.
But his raw, natural ability, still needed to be channelled and molded to become the record-breaking talent that his is today.
“In this field it’s not enough to inherit your power from your family,” he said. "It’s still a very difficult journey and requires a lot of training and dedication.
“We used to train for two hours a day at the gym and once a week we’d work outside on specific power skills like how to carry and pull huge weights.”
When Mr Khalil started his career, many expected him to enter international body-building and weightlifting contests.
But the bearded hulk was reluctant to take part owing to rumours of extensive steroid use by athletes competing in the field.
“I lean towards super power games more,” he told The National. “What interests me is having a car drive over my arm or stomach, pulling a car with my hair or breaking rocks on my head.
“To be fair the sport has developed now and there are many specialised trainers and dietitians to guide athletes. It’s a recognised sport.”
Today, Mr Khalil keeps his strength up through a combination of intensive training and a strict dietary regime.
He eats up to 20 eggs, two whole chickens and lots of fruit and vegetables every day. He also strengthens his hair for truck pulling events by applying a particular oil.
Describing how he prepares to pull vehicles, he said: “There’s a specific way to tie it [his hair] to the vehicle before pulling.”
He said it was separated into three locks and that the rope attached to the truck was braided into the strands.
“I can also pull a lorry with my teeth although it requires a lot of training to strengthen the jaw,” he said. He has yet to break a single tooth performing the stunt.
Over the past three decades, Mr Khalil has broken a number of strongman records.
In 2016, he pulled the world’s longest emergency bus weighing 12 tonnes and in December he aims to break a world record by pulling a 14 tonne truck with his hair.
He has also become a social media star with close to 34,000 followers on Instagram.
But despite his obvious fame, the father of three sons makes it clear that what matters most to him is how he can use his acclaim to assist others.
He has made it his mission to befriend people with special needs, motivating them to follow their dreams.
“If God has given me such power I believe I should use it for the good of mankind,” he said.
“I could have become a thug, but what good would that bring me?”
“My goal is to support people with special needs. They have a lot of potential and I’ve noticed they have a passion to live and a massive energy.”
He is currently training an Indian resident living in the UAE how to pull a car with his wheelchair.
“When people see individuals with special needs being helped by people like me they start support them more,” he said.