Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 January 2020

Trailblazing Emirati engineer Hessa Al Khaledi dies

Al Khaledi was among the first Emirati women to be sent abroad to study at university

One of the UAE’s first female Emirati engineers died on Saturday.

Hessa Al Khaledi, believed to have been in her early fifties, died in the UAE after a decade-long battle with cancer. She had been receiving medical treatment in the US, where she attended university in her youth.

She was among the first Emirati women to study abroad at undergraduate level, on a scholarship from the UAE Founding Father Sheikh Zayed.

Her brother, Khaled Al Khaledi, a prominent social media influencer, announced her death on Twitter at 8.30pm.

Soon after, Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, offered his condolences to her family.

Describing Al Khaledi as a “pioneer of the UAE”, Dr Gargash, who attended George Washington University, revealed she was his classmate in the US. and was one of the first Emirati women to graduate in the field of engineering.

“She was an example of a persevering, self-made woman,” he said on Twitter.

Naama Al Mansouri, member of the Federal National Council and head of services for the blind at Zayed Higher Organisation for People with Determination, said she had been close to Al Khaledi for the past 10 years.

“I met Hessa through her role in protocol services for Sheikha Fatima,” she said, referring to the wife of Sheikh Zayed and the Mother of the Nation.

Ms Al Mansouri, 48, told The National she had been in contact with Al Khaledi throughout her illness and could always rely on her for support.

“When I nominated myself for the FNC, she was one of my biggest supporters.

“She always texted me that she was certain I would win. And when I won she called me immediately, while she was in the highest level of sickness.”

Ms Al Mansouri said Al Khaledi was the only person she wanted to speak to when her victory was announced.

“I could take any calls with all the excitement of winning but, when I saw her number, I immediately picked up.”

She described Al Khaledi as a “big supporter of Emirati women”.

“She had a strong will. She battled cancer for 10 years and I visited her before she left to the US for treatment two years ago. She was very strong and determined.

“She told the doctors to try any medication they would want to test on her.”

Al Khaledi returned to the UAE in October, after doctors in the US told her she had only two months to live.

She is survived by her husband, an engineer from Morocco. They had no children.

On Saturday, Mona Al Marri, Director General of the Government of Dubai Media Office, said that though she only met her on a few “formal occasions”, Al Khaledi left a lasting impression.

Ms Al Marri described Al Khaledi as “modest, calm” and as always having a smiling face and warm heart. Al Khaledi “welcomed you even if she did not know you”, Ms Al Marri said.

Funeral prayers were held on Sunday afternoon at Sultan bin Zayed the First Mosque. Al Khaledi was laid to rest at Al Bateen Cemetery in Abu Dhabi.

Updated: December 23, 2019 05:56 PM