Saudi, UAE personalities focus on self-improvement as coronavirus keeps them home

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Personalities around the Gulf are focusing on one thing they can control – self-improvement – as many of the trappings of daily life have fallen away in the coronavirus lockdowns.

Mustafa Abbas, an Emirati entrepreneur and filmmaker, says life under lockdown in the UAE gives people a unique opportunity to reflect on themselves.


“We are at a place where we all have to live with ourselves now, literally and figuratively. It‘s a time to reflect and continue to be grateful and to continue to understand oneself,” he tells Al Arabiya English.

“Naturally, we are all having moments of frustration, sadness and confusion. But if you’re home, I believe there is much room for productivity and positivity. This can be a defining moment for each individual,” says Abbas.

Saudi entrepreneur and investor Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud has long been a proponent of a healthy lifestyle, embracing veganism and environmental activism. Social distancing measures have led him to give more time to the habits that he thrives on.

“Personally, I’m coping great. I’m actually spending a lot of time reading, and this period has opened a lot of new doors for me actually. I’m obviously working out at home, almost daily, and I really love that I have more time to do that now,” Prince Khaled said.

“Before the stay home movement started, I was meditating in the mornings briefly; now I have more time to devote to it and it is honestly beneficial,” he explained.

Prince Khaled, who serves as the President of the Saudi Sports for All Foundation, has also been using this time to pass good habits onto others. The organization recently launched a new initiative called Baytak Nadeek—Arabic for ‘Your Home, Your Gym’, which aims to keep people active while stuck indoors—and to use social media to engage with others doing the same.

“If you check the campaign’s hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, you’ll find thousands of images and videos from people sharing their home workouts. This is exactly what we hoped for: activating community motivation and a spirit of supporting one another with physical activity and healthy living,” he explained.

Not everything has been about physical well-being, of course. One Emirati angel investor who asked not to be named has most enjoyed how social-distancing has ironically brought her closer to her family, especially her father, an 80-year-old local business magnate.

“For me the bright side is that I had a 15-minute conversation with my dad today where he paid full attention to what I was saying and was fully present. That’s probably the most ever. He’s less distracted and we get to bond over games. Normally work is too much, and people are always coming and going, so I never get mutually present time shared with him,” the angel investor said, whose endeavors focus on social impact.

While personal connection and spiritual growth has been a blessing, the realities of the global pandemic, and her father’s age, have made life more difficult in other ways. Her father wonders if he’ll ever be able to continue the full life he once led, or even be able to travel to see his family and friends again.

“I think his biggest fear is that life will never be the same again. And that even when this is over, we all have to be careful because of his age and health. He fears we can’t reunite as a family and go on holiday like we used to or go to the places we used to go. There are too many people, and there’s a huge risk that the virus will be passed on to him,” said the angel investor.

And while her father has been exercising more and enthusiastically learned how to set up Zoom, organizing calls with his whole family each day, he also doubts whether his once-robust financial situation will be able to withstand the current crisis.

“Will we be able to get more income? The markets collapsed… so most of his wealth is gone in the ether. There’s insecurity for his family and the families that depend on him, and that is what worries him most also,” the angel investor concluded.

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Coronavirus: With 15,000 cases in the Gulf, here is how GCC states are coping

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