Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

Portrait of a Nation: Emirati doctor and inventor helps people reconnect with the 'rhythms of life'

The young doctor created a meditation chair called Alrowaiha to help people find a space to rest and let go of the past

Mariam Ketait, an Emirati family doctor and a holistic wellbeing practitioner who created Alrowaiha, a meditation chair inspired by the Emirati heritage. Courtesy: Mariam Ketait  
Mariam Ketait, an Emirati family doctor and a holistic wellbeing practitioner who created Alrowaiha, a meditation chair inspired by the Emirati heritage. Courtesy: Mariam Ketait  

For Mariam Ketait, an Emirati family doctor, medicine should not focus only on the physical treatment of patients but also on their mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

She created a meditation chair called Alrowaiha to help people find a space to rest, reconnect with the rhythms of life and let go of the past.

“The name is derived from the Arabic words alroh, which means the soul, and alraha, which means to rest. It is a space for people to rest and reconnect with their souls,” says Ms Ketait.

“I always used to talk about creating a space for people to heal, one where you can find solace. I believe the way a structure is created can influence the rate of recovery and receptivity of wellbeing.”

Ms Ketait says that there are many elements around us in nature that need to be present for our bodies to heal faster.

“Based on the elements of earth, air, water, ether and on my love of the sea and sailing, Alrowaiha was born,” she says.

The 36-year-old doctor said that she was also inspired by her great-grandmother.

“I grew up with my extended family, where I would see my great-grandmother mix herbs to help us get better if we fall ill. I was inspired by her passion and belief. I always felt that I could help people feel better too, and it was always the undertone to everything I do,” says Ms Ketait.

At the age of 16, as a result of her high achievement at school, she was accepted in to medical school in Dubai and graduated at the age of 21.

I always felt that there was a need to look at the patient holistically. I saw that doctors tend to look at one ailment and might miss another one just because they have been practicing their specialty for so long,” says Ms Ketait.

“I wanted to make sure that I always look at patients from a holistic perspective. Family medicine was a perfect match as it dealt with medical concerns biologically, psychologically and socially. Later on, I learned about the spiritual and emotional bodies and how they can influence wellbeing too,” she says.

After graduation, Ms Ketiat worked at a governmental health care facility in Dubai as a family medicine resident and as head of business development.

“I continued my studies and got my master’s degree in health care management and, in 2012, I started learning and reading about different healing techniques, alternative medicine, meditation and other modalities and became a holistic well-being practitioner,” she says.

In 2016, she met a group of surfers and was intrigued by their way of living and inspired by their journey.

surfers find their balance on the waves as the sea ebbs and flows,” says Ms Ketiat. “It was a translation of all the teachings I was giving to my patients and friends and, after sitting with them, I learnt that they readily let go of the past, stay present and focus at the moment. They are optimistic about the future and not afraid of falling but rather enjoying the flow.”

After that, the sound of the water as it connected with the shore, and the rhythms of the waves, felt more symbolic than before.


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“So now we had sailing and surfing and meditation and I knew that I had to create something of value out of it. The knowledge felt so ready to be out there and, in 2017, I designed the meditation chair,” she says.

Alrowaiha contains a hanging chair made of rattan, a very lightweight natural material, placed on a wooden boat of Emirati design carved from a tree trunk, while a drum creates the sound of the ocean.

“The solid boat is made in a very old way and it represents the Earth element, as well as stability and steadiness. The chair gives you a floating sensation and the feeling of being embraced and cocooned, which is all important for letting go and reconnecting with the self,” she says.

Ms Ketiat is planning to partner with a sustainable furniture making company and create smaller versions for people at home.

“I would like for it to be made available in homes, schools, hospitals, workplaces and public spaces so people can enjoy it and benefit from it,” she says.