Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 November 2019

UAE Portrait of a Nation: Emirati children's author takes a leaf out of father's book with ghaf tree tale

Hanadi Al Fahim uses the country's national symbol to educate youngsters in heritage and history

Mohammed Abdul Al Fahim, together with his daughter Hanadi Mohammed Al Fahim, is aiming to inspire the next generation to embrace nature Khushnum Bhandari for The National
Mohammed Abdul Al Fahim, together with his daughter Hanadi Mohammed Al Fahim, is aiming to inspire the next generation to embrace nature Khushnum Bhandari for The National

Her father wrote the book on Abu Dhabi.

Mohammed Al Fahim's 1995 Rags to Riches - a stark and honest tale of a barefoot people whose city became one of the wealthiest after finding oil - was read around the world.

Now daughter Hanadi is following in her father footsteps with a children's tale aimed at teaching the history and heritage of the nation.

With her story of a friendly ghaf tree she seeks to educate young people about conservation, bringing to life the flora and fauna of the deserts of the UAE.

I love to encourage children to read and believe one cannot have too many books

Hanadi Al Fatim

“I love to encourage children to read and believe one cannot have too many books," she says at her office, decorated with 'upcycled' motor parts - a nod to her father's huge automotive business, and a large butterfly print star artist Damien Hirst.

She fears young people in the UAE are not learning enough about the country's history and heritage.

"With devices being more accessible to children nowadays they tend to choose them over the world of reading," she says.

Ms Al Fahim has been involved in conservation campaigns for years and choose to write The Little Ghaf Tree as a result.

"My admiration started in 2006 when we sponsored a campaign with Emirates Nature to save the ghaf tree and pave the way for it to be the national tree," she says.

"Through this sponsorship, I learned about all the beautiful traits of this tree and decided to continue trying to inform people.”

Hanadi Al Fahim pictured with her book and one of her art works - a table made from a Mercedes front grille. Victor Besa / The National
Hanadi Al Fahim pictured with her book and one of her art works - a table made from a Mercedes front grille. Victor Besa / The National

The Year of Tolerance, the government's official annual campaign for 2019, uses the tree symbol also.

“I took it as a sign to complete the story that I had started," she says.

The book, published in English and Arabic with illustrations, is intended to instil "in our children a love for our culture and environment, while educating them on the importance of preserving our environment and coexisting with nature and neighbours".

"Then when my nieces and nephews were born that is when it clicked for me and I felt like I wanted to pass on this information."

While this is her first book, it may not be her last, says Ms Al Fahim, who has a hand in running the family's business empire, which includes Western and Eastern motors, Emirates Motor Company and Marjan Industrial Development, an engineering supplier for the oil and gas industry.

The book features a friendly ghaf tree who tells the story of the desert and its creatures
The book features a friendly ghaf tree who tells the story of the desert and its creatures

She was working on another book but broke off to get the children's book ready for this year's Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

"There could be a sequel,” she says.

“I do have something in mind but it is a matter of where my heart takes me whether it is towards non-fiction or fiction."

When not writing, Ms Al Fahim, who attended the European Business School, designs art using car pieces.

A striking Mercedes front grille that she forged into a table is among the items in her office.

“I used to pass by the workshop every day on my way to the office and to me the workshop was like a hospital," she says.

"When I saw the parts that are thrown away, I felt I could save them and upcycle them into useful parts. My offices have bits and pieces of automotive parts," she says.

She has about 10 pieces for sale on her Instagram site. The parts have been transformed into stools, lamps, vases, desks and other artistic pieces.

“I'm not an artist, I am an art lover. I think I would define myself as an artistic business woman."

Updated: October 18, 2019 05:18 PM

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