Wael Al Sayegh is an uprising star in the skies of Dubai. He is a blend of many qualities, the owner of AlGhaf – intercultural intelligence consulting firm-, a poet, a publisher, an expert in martial arts, and much more. He has journeyed through a long tunnel to get where he is, and he is just beginning to come out into the light. To serve him right, the interview with Wael will be split into two parts. The first part in this issue we will be asking him about his background, personal life, and about his start. In the second part of the interview, which will be featured Sail’s next issue, we will be focusing more on AlGhaf, its purpose, and its future.
Interviewed by Iman Ben Chaibah
- Wael, you are an Edinburgh-born Emirati, tell us more about that.
I have an Emirati father and a Bahraini mother. I was born in Edinburgh in Scotland, where my father was continuing his studies, and I spent the bulk of my upbringing in there. Psychologically, the majority of my personality was developed there.
We came back to Dubai when I was young, and I graduated from a school in Dubai. Then I went back to Scotland, to continue my studies before I finally settled back in Dubai.
- How did you start your career in Dubai?
I always had this fascination with money, and I just wanted to be around money. Since my family came from a very academic background, in which you are either a doctor or a lawyer, I thought the only other traditional occupation that would honor my family at the time was in the financial world.
Very often you have to discover what you are not, in order to discover what you are. So, I started working in the financial world and was immersed in it. The management were happy with me, they gave me long term development programs, and I was being paid well with a very bright managerial future. Yet, I found myself not wanting to do this anymore. I thought I wanted this, and I finally achieved it, but I suddenly found myself not wanting to do it anymore.
- What did you do about it?
I needed a change of scenery to try to find my passion, so I decided to go on a trip to South Africa with my friend. It was there that I decided to quit the financial world right then and there. I did not know what I would do; I just knew that I wanted to quit.
During that same trip I met Shamilla, who later became my wife. I got to know her on that trip and found out that she works in Dubai. I learnt a lot from Shamilla, and reading is one of the things. I never thought I could commit to reading, but she guided me to read in the areas that I actually enjoy in real life, and that is where I began my journey with reading around the age of 25.
- Geoff Thompson is known to have a big influence on your growth journey. How did that start?
As I started my journey with reading, I came across his books, and his background amazed me. He worked as a bouncer in Coventry’s nightclubs, one of the most violent cities in Europe back in the early 1980’s. He risked his life on those nightclub doors, learnt how to defend himself, and witnessed many of his friends getting killed or hospitalized. At some point he reached the realization that he has the ability to do anything after working for 10 years as a bouncer. That is when he started writing, and became an award-winning writer, and a number of his writings were directed into movies.
I was intrigued by the sincerity in his words, until I eventually took a trip and met him in person. From then on, I started to get to know him personally, and got invited to a couple of his exclusive martial arts training sessions.
Geoff made me understand what fear is. He says fear is the friend of exceptional people; people do what they do because of their fear not because of their lack of it.
- What were your main fears back then?
My biggest fear was to live an unfulfilled life. Until Geoff’s work, I was just an Emirati. I had the fear of being nothing but a Kandoora (The UAE national dress for men). I wanted to be something, but I had no idea what that something was. That is where reading came in; books drew my roadmap. I was not the only one who did not know what they wanted to do; it is interesting to see how many great legends started with a massive amount of fear.
- What is fear in your opinion and why do people run away from it?
Geoff defines fear as “shadows”. They are the parts that do not serve us well. A shadow is what questions your motives for doing something good and tries to opt you into conforming instead. Some of these shadows are in complete control of us. I believe Islam calls this “the biggest battle” in the name of God (Al Jihad Al Akbar). This battle is ongoing inside all of us all the time. It is the eternal battle between the good and the bad. Faith in goodness cannot grow without a fight, and it feeds on light, which is found through knowledge; meeting people who are doing good things, reading, etc. Shadows do not like the light, because the minute it appears they are exposed, and they do not like to be in the spotlight, so they fight it.
First of all, we have to acknowledge that this happens inside of us. A lot of people ask me why I practice martial arts when it is a safe country. I think the reason our society is being completely beaten up by luxury, type 2 diabetes, high divorce rates, and all other major issues is because we do not even know who the enemy is. First rule of self-defense is awareness, so how can you defend yourself if you do not even know you are being attacked?
We tend to forget that we are metaphysical as well as physical beings, and so we have become very imbalanced. There are smart people, whose bodies are completely imbalanced, and there are many people who are physically strong but their minds are immature. We have to regain the balance so we can fight our own shadows and fears.
- So what happened after your left the financial sector?
I worked for 2 years in Mohamed bin Rashid establishment for young business leaders as an investment analyst with my financial background. I worked with entrepreneurs who were making their dreams and ideas become reality. This led me to the decision that I wanted to start my business.
I believe that the minute you start to really think about it, things will happen. So as I started thinking about what I can do, I got a phone call from a friend of mine who had started giving lectures to expatriates about the culture and history of the region and he had signed a deal with another company to do all the selling. So he wanted me to help him in the lectures, he needed someone who is authentically an Emirati but could speak in English, and so there I was. We started the company and it lasted for about 2 years. Then my partner went to start something else while I wanted to continue these lectures. I sold my shares with him and started my company “AlGhaf” and that grew from cross-culture awareness, which is about explaining the Arabic culture, and inter-cultural intelligence.
In the next issue, Wael will be telling us more about the meaning of the term AlGhaf for him, what is inter-cultural intelligence, how does AlGhaf operate, and much more. Stay Tuned.
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