The thrill of boat-making: Nour says nothing is more unconventional than designing boats Image Credit: XPRESS/Virendra Saklani

SHARJAH: The rust belt of Sharjah’s industrial area isn’t quite the place where you’d expect a young Arab woman to start her career. And that too in the male-dominated industry of boat-making. But then 28-year-old Palestinian Nour Al Sayyed isn’t your average woman.

“I love the thrill of challenges. And nothing is more daunting and unconventional than designing boats,” says Nour, sitting in a modest office overlooking a production and assembly line where dozens of workers are giving shape to her designs.

A graduate from the School of Architecture at the American University in Sharjah, Nour joined Al Marakeb in 2008 when it was still a fledgling enterprise.

But she first learnt about it in college.

Backyard inspiration

Nour’s adventurous classmate Basel Shuhaiber had just built his first boat in his backyard as a birthday present for his father. It turned out so well, Shuhaiber decided to set up a company to make customised boats.

Nour wanted to be on board. But she wasn’t ready yet. So she enrolled for a Masters degree in Industrial Design at Florence Design Academy in Italy to hone her skills.

Equipped with the degree, she returned to the UAE and joined Al Marakeb as Architect and Industrial Designer – a position she has held since.

“There hasn’t been a dull moment to date. It’s fascinating watching a concept developed from a sketch to a finished and functional build and being part of the whole journey.

“Better yet, I get to test out the boats in the sea. But what brings me real joy are the smiles you see on the faces of your clients when they enjoy a ride in a boat designed by you.”

Besides Nour and Shuhaiber, the third member of the team is the company’s business development manager, Alex Al Hayek.

Together they have transformed Al Marakeb from a three member operation to the market frontrunner it is today.

Last year was the company’s best with boat sales doubling compared to 2011.

“The bulk of the orders came from the UAE. We also cater to buyers in Bahrain, Oman, Libya and Seychelles,” said Al Hayek.

Currently, Al Marakeb builds three standard models - Spartan 25 (Dh38,600), Dino 31 (Dh60,000) and Triton 35 (Dh105,000) and also offers flexible payment plans.

This year, according to Nour, the company is planning to introduce two new models and also enhance the features of their existing models.

“Every craft that leaves our workshop is different. We put our heart and soul into them and try to fulfil every boat enthusiast’s wish list,” says Nour.

“Perhaps one day we will produce and sell over 300 boats per year worldwide.”

Given her fierce determination, that day may not be too far away.