5 UAE residents to get inspired by

We could all learn a thing or two from these amazing people of the UAE.

James Reynolds October 21, 2015

It often gets lost amongst the vast gleaming towers, extravagant five-star hotels and plethora of massive malls in the country, that the UAE is actually home to some truly incredible people. 

From a paraplegic skydiver, to a devoted charity fundraiser, here we profile five people who the UAE can be extremely proud of.

Jarrett Martin

A man paralysed from the chest down following a horrifying paragliding accident six years ago, Jarrett Martin defied the odds to become the world record holder for longest time spent in a wind tunnel by a disabled person.

From lying in a hospital bed in a critical condition, Martin underwent an excruciating recovery both mentally and physically, and although he was no longer able to walk, his passion for skydiving drove him to never give up.

So extraordinary is Martin’s will to succeed that just six months after his accident, he was back skydiving again. He went on to break the wind tunnel record – almost doubling the previous record of 96 minutes. Martin’s incredible story shows that with enough determination, perseverance and passion, anything is possible.

For more on Martin’s amazing story, read our exclusive interview with him here.

Maan Al-Yasiri

Maan Al-Yasiri is a great example of someone willing to go above and beyond to achieve greatness, despite huge obstacles standing in his way. The 18-year-old was accepted into the prestigious University of Oxford after he spent 11 months studying textbooks and watching educational videos on YouTube to pass his exams.

Born in Syria after his family were forced to flee their native Iraq during the rule of Saddam Hussein amid fear of persecution, Al-Yasiri moved to the UK with his mum and then stepdad, before his mum remarried again and moved the family to Dubai in 2012.

He originally attended Victoria International School in Sharjah, however in 2014, just before the year he was set to take his GCSEs, Al Yasiri was forced to leave the school as his family couldn’t afford the fees.

At this point he made the incredible decision to teach himself through reading textbooks and watching YouTube videos and miraculously he came out with seven GCSEs. After his exams, Maan’s mother and his new stepfather moved to Iraq and Maan returned to the UK, where he sat three A-levels, earning two As and a B. 

He then applied for a place at Oxford, and despite failing to get an interview at first, after one of his tutors spoke up on his behalf, he was given a chance to interview for a position at the university which he, of course, took with both hands. He started his degree in history and politics this autumn.

Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi

Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi gave all Emiratis something to aspire to recently when she became the first Emirati and only the second person from a GCC country to receive the Clinton Global Citizen Award.

Established in 2007, the award is given to honour outstanding individuals who exemplify global citizenship, and Sheikha Luba received it on account of her exceptional leadership in public service and tireless humanitarian work.

And while the winning of the award is special in itself, what is even more impressive is the humble and gracious way in which Sheikha Lubna accepted it. “I am humbled by this recognition and, with gratitude, I stand before all of you today to receive this award on behalf of my country, the United Arab Emirates,” she said in her acceptance speech.

An inspirational figure for UAE woman, she is the country’s first ever female minister and serves as an example of what is now possible for women in the Middle East.

Cath Todd

Cath Todd is a woman with some serious drive. As well as her full-time job as a research centre director at Dubai’s University of Wollongong, she runs grueling long-distance races known as ultra marathons and has even managed to find the time to write a book about her experiences.

Among her amazing achievements, one of the most impressive is her first place in the women’s category of the 2013 Badwater Ultramarathon in California, US. In completing the physically exhausting 217km race through Death Valley, she also set a record as the fastest Australian ever to do so.

As if that wasn’t enough, she is also the only person to run 222km across the UAE, from Dubai to Fujairah, in under 30 hours.

Despite having to get up at 3am to fit her tough training regime around working hours, Cath – or Dr Todd, while she’s a work – remains thoroughly committed to her sport.

Nasser Ibrahim

Nasser Ibrahim is just a normal guy who realised he could make a difference.

Every year for the past eight years, the serial-fundraiser has walked from Abu Dhabi Airport to Dubai’s Internet City, where his employers Mashreq Bank are based. His dedication to the cause has seen a total of AED 370,000 raised for a selected few charities – not bad for someone who doesn’t even train for the walks.

“It’s all about raising awareness of what children with special needs can really do rather than what they can’t do,” he says. “So that they can be integrated into society without feeling any less privileged than other children.”

The trip, which normally takes him two days to complete, has seen Ibrahim raise donations for the likes of Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs, the Special Needs Families Dubai Development Centre and the 2004 Asian tsunami relief appeal. His most recent walk raised AED 35,000.00 for the Dubai Autism Centre.