Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor opened a permanent exhibition of his life recently revealing different aspects of his life’s journey from his humble beginnings to his charitable and philanthropic work, business life as well as insight to family life. Joanna Andrews reports.
The exhibit opened to its first visitors, a group of 30 prominent Emiratis, who were taken on a private tour of the high-tech space. As soon as they stepped through the doors of the Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor's Life Journey they were taken back in time to when the Al Habtoor Group Chairman was a small boy living in a cramped barasti hut with his family. The Boy from Shindagah features a barasti hut with authentic items from the past, including an olden wooden chest belonging to Al Habtoor's father, which used to hold the family’s most prized possessions. Visitors senses were awakened the moment they entered the small home.They experienced sight and sounds from the past, and their senses were treated to aromas of the past: sea air mixed with middle eastern spices.
Al Habtoor said, “It doesn’t seem that long ago when we used live in a similar home to this. I remember those days as if they were yesterday. I would go out into the desert with my father where he taught me to ride camels and how to hunt.”
He added, “Our traditional barasti home seemed gigantic to me back then. Yet in reality it was tiny and cramped. The only item of furniture we had was a bed which no one slept on. We preferred to sleep on the floor on thin mattresses with blankets. We would fold them up each morning and neatly arrange them on top of the bed where most our meagre belongings were kept.”
As the guests meandered through the exhibit they we able to delve into various aspects of Al Habtoor’s life. After emerging from the barasti they stumbled upon The Emirati display, which represents the deeprooted culture and traditions that Al Habtoor holds dear.
This is where he pays homage to his ancestors, as well as the UAE leader, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the main driving force behind the formation of the United Arab Emirates, and the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the founding father of modern Dubai, who had a lasting influence on Al Habtoor’s life.
The Family Man provides insight to Al Habtoor’s family life and showcases some of the Al Habtoor family’s personal belongings dating back to the early 1900s. “I always say my family is my oxygen,” says Al Habtoor. “They are the reason why I work so hard.”
The Businessman showcases Al Habtoor’s business achievements. It shows his journey from the start of his career as the head of the small engineering company, Al Habtoor Engineering, which he created in 1970, to the diverse Al Habtoor Group conglomerate he heads today with business interests spanning seven countries across Europe, the Middle East and the United States.
The Advocate details articles and speeches given by Al Habtoor both in the UAE and internationally, including keynote addresses at highprofile conference in Washington DC, New York and Budapest.
The Philanthropist highlights charitable initiatives carried out by Al Habtoor, his Foundation and his Group including the launch of Pathways to Peace in the United States alongside former US President Jimmy Carter. It also features his plan to alleviate global poverty, as well as local and regional initiatives.
The Sportsman brings together Al Habtoor’s sporting life, including his love for tennis and his contribution to the development of polo in the UAE.
The central hub, called 'The Heart & Soul' brings together all the aspects of Al Habtoor’s life in a state-of-the-art, high-tech central brain of the exhibit.
Al Habtoor said, “There are certain aspects of my life that are publically known, particularly when it comes to business, philanthropy and advocacy. This exhibition reveals insight to many other important aspects of my life and shows my journey from the early days.”
He added, “I hope visitors will gain inspiration from this exhibition, and learn something valuable from it.”