Dubai: It's a quest which all of us, at some point, at least consider: The search for that unique little spark that sets us apart from everyone else.

For some, it comes naturally. For Khalid Nayeem, 33, it comes in the mail.

Nayeem's unique selling point, you see, is collecting photographs which have been signed by world leaders.

The Pakistani national came to Dubai in 1975. A civil engineer by profession, he has over 60 photographs ranging from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and French President Nicholas Sarkozy, as well as a signed photograph of the 2007 President of the Swiss Confederation, Micheline Calmy-Rey with members of parliament.

It all began with a friend who was visiting Dubai on holiday from Australia.

A step further

One of their conversations turned to his friend's extensive collection of 200 autographs of world leaders that he had amassed over the course of 10 years.

That sparked Nayeem's interest, and he told his friend that he would begin collecting as well. But he would go one step further and collect signed photographs.

In March 2007, Nayeem began writing letters to world leaders.

At first, his family was sceptical of his new-found passion. It was only after he received his first photograph, from the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair, two weeks later, that they began supporting him.

"After I showed them the picture, they believed and began helping me by finding the addresses I needed to send my letters to," he said. "They also gave me advice, telling me to write a unique letter or use colourful ink."

One thing that his hobby has taught him is patience.

He said: "It takes on average a month to receive a response. I will sometimes get a photograph within two weeks and sometimes as late as 40 days after I sent a request."

He added that it is a combination of everyone's collective efforts, perseverance and the fact that Dubai is well-known internationally that has helped build his collection.

When he received a photograph of Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, Nayeem immediately made a colour photocopy of it and sent it to his brother in Pakistan. It was his brother's excitement that reminded him just how unique his collection truly is.

Not all of his letters have had positive results - US President George W. Bush has not yet responded despite repeated attempts by Nayeem.

But he isn't disillusioned. "One thing that you have to remember is that they are heads of state and they do not always have time to respond," he said.

Looking over the photographs, Nayeem admits that he has a soft spot for the Tony Blair photograph, as it was the one that started it all. He adds that his two favourite photographs are those of the Prince of Monaco, Albert II and Jean-Paul Proust, the Minister of State for Monaco.

Nayeem hopes his collection will not only include international and sporting figures but also signed photographs of prominent figures in the UAE. He now has a photograph of the Chief of Dubai Police, Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim.

It was during Ramadan that his friends suggested that he add signed photographs of famous sports personalities to his collection.

Spurred by their encouragement, he wrote and received signed photographs from the current president of FIFA, Joseph Blatter, UEFA President Michel Platini and the International Cricket Council's General Manager David Richardson.

"I even received a birthday card from AC Milan," he said, grinning. "But I still don't have a signed picture from them, yet."

He said: "There are still so many leaders and personalities that I would like to have signed photographs from. I'm not going to stop until I have every leader's signed autograph, current or not."

And what happens once he reaches his goal?

"Many leaders send me visiting cards, and I hope that I can start visiting the countries and taking a photograph with each leader," Khalid added.

It takes on average a month to receive a response. I will sometimes get a photograph within two weeks and sometimes as late as 40 days after I sent a request."