Abu Dhabi: Dr Rouhalla Sabetimehr and his wife Dr Maleeha were among the eight winners for the 2008 Abu Dhabi Awards for their medical and humanitarian contributions to the United Arab Emirates since the 1950s.
Dr Rouhalla, 78, of an Iranian origin, arrived to the UAE in 1954 to offer medical assistance to Bedouins and citizens in Al Ain during the summer and in Abu Dhabi during the winter, his wife Maleeha told Gulf News on Thursday.
Shortly after his arrival, the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan advised him to get married to a female doctor to assist him with his medical services. He then travelled to Iran and came back with his wife Maleeha.
"Shaikh Zayed and the rest of the family visited our home shortly after I arrived to Al Ain. My husband asked me to wear a abaya and shela out of respect. The minute Shaikh Zayed saw me he asked me why I was wearing the national costume," said Maleeha, who immediately took off her abaya and shela and continued the evening in her regular clothes.
"I'm a doctor, I shouldn't be restricted by clothes! Those were the exact words to my husband from Shaikh Zayed," she explained.
Even though Maleeha was originally a gynaecologist, she delivered over 5,000 babies in both Al Ain and Abu Dhabi.
Rouhalla who is a general practitioner was also multi-tasking and spent three weeks learning more about dental care.
He also travelled to Iran to purchase all the necessary dental equipment needed.
"The royal family gave my husband a time span of three weeks to learn all he can about dentistry, during which I was medically assisting 1,000 Bedouins who were at the time living in tents made out of wood. There was no electricity, no bread and very little water available at the time. The only rice available had bugs and worms in it," said the award winner.
In 1958, Rouhalla once again travelled to Iran and came back to Al Ain with a farmer.
"The first fruits, vegetables and proper seed planting were then introduced to Al Ain and Abu Dhabi to help improve the countries poor nutrition." Maleeha explained.
The Sabetimehr's were also the first to introduce pharmacies all over the UAE and the first camera which Rouhalla had to travel by to purchase from Iran.
"My husband dealt with more than 300 pharmaceutical companies all over the world to make sure the best drugs would be available in each city across the UAE," she said.