From left: Fatima Al Banna, Fatema Al Kamali, Shatha Eisa, Sahar Al Awadhi, Abeer Al Khaja and Dr Reem Al Gurg on the sidelines of a panel discussion held in Dubai. Image Credit: Yousra Zaki/Gulf News

Dubai: Six accomplished Emirati ladies on Tuesday discussed their success stories with a room full of women, at Burj Al Arab Hotel.

The young women on the speakers’ panel had diverse careers: including a children’s book writer, fitness trainer, fashion designer and pastry chef. The topic of discussion was ‘Passion, Courage and Success’.

Sahar Al Awadhi, a junior sous chef in the Burj Al Arab’s pastry kitchen, said: “I knew my whole life that I wanted to work with food. I love pastries and being in the kitchen. It is a very tough job. I work 14-hour days on my feet and have to do the same thing over and over again. But I don’t mind because I love it so much. I get to do what I am passionate about,” Al Awadhi, one among few Emirati women who work in the culinary sector, said.

After graduating from high school, Al Awadhi went on to study communications and design management at the American University of Sharjah. Her first job was at Zayed University, where she handled social media, communications, marketing and branding for four years. “I loved that job. I got to work on their social platforms and start them from scratch! It was amazing and creative and wonderful, but deep down I knew that I wanted to work in the restaurant business. Everyone scared me though, saying that it was so hard and my hours would be crazy. I would never have time for my family, they said.”

That was when she took a leap of faith to follow her passion for pastry, as an experimental journey. “I quit my job without having another one lined up, I knew I would succeed because I wanted it that badly.” Al Awadhi got her first kitchen job at La Serre Bistro and Boulangerie, where she worked with some of Dubai’s top chefs. She then decided to further her patisserie training and spent some time learning bread baking, from one of the best bakers in Paris. Today, she is Burj Al Arab’s first ever Emirati chef.

Other successful Emirati women on the panel included Fatima Al Banna, the panel moderator and PR Manager at Jumeirah Group; Abeer Al Khaja, an athlete at Gravity Calisthenics Gym; Dr. Reem Al Gurg, a children’s author. She also a professor and academic researcher who teaches public health at a UAE-based university. Also on the panel was Fatema Al Kamali, co-founder of Borderline Productions and an applied media educator. Shatha Essa, a local fashion designer, was the final participant.

All the panellists noted that they received support from their family, communities and the UAE government, which contributed greatly to their career path and current success.