Young Emirati entrepreneurs share their visions of a more connected society

Young Emirati entrepreneurs share their visions of a more connected society

Young Emirati entrepreneurs share their visions of a more connected society
View of downtown Dubai skyscrapers with the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) in the foreground and the Burj Khalifa in the background.

Heba Hashem, White Paper Media


A new startup hub with affordable housing that’s coming up on Al Ain Road in Dubai hopes to eliminate workplace isolation and encourage creative professionals to exchange services. Called Nomad, it has already received government approvals and will break ground this month.

“We see it as a hub, a place where people can connect, not in their own segregated offices but in an open campus-style environment, where they can meet like-minded people and bounce ideas off them,” Noora Khammas, Executive Director of Nomad, said during a seminar organised by Dubai Culture as part of the Islamic Economy Week.

“You may be a designer but need someone from the media to help you shoot [videos of] your projects, or [you may be] in the culinary field but need someone [to do your] accounts. You can have that kind of barter system. If you need something from another segment, you don’t need to look online; you can just ask for help.”


Nomad is being developed by Al Ahli Holding Group, a UAE-based conglomerate that owns Dubai Outlet Mall. The first phase will occupy 50,000 square feet and should be ready by April 2019, and the second phase is expected to be completed close to Expo 2020, in October 2020. 

Altogether, the project will cover a million square feet and will contain an arts studio and one of the largest 3D printing facilities in the world.

“We’re looking at partners like Disney to come and be part of the accelerator program. We’re thinking big and outside the box. I think the power is with startups, not with the bigger corporations. It’s a complete shift in the game.”

Nomad will also offer modular living spaces that will be available for short- and long-term lease. About 40 units are planned in the first phase.

“The cost of housing in the UAE is very high, and startups usually live on a low income. Any member of Nomad will be able to rent those units at rates much lower than elsewhere in the city.”


Noora Khammas

 Noora Khammas, Executive Director of Nomad.


Until recently, Noora, an architect by profession, was engaged with her own startup named Riyash, an online marketplace for emerging furniture designers. However, she put that project on pause to focus on developing Nomad with her brother Mohammed Khammas, CEO of Nomad and of Al Ahli Holding.

After living in Kazakhstan for several years, Noora returned to the UAE and joined Impact Hub Dubai and Flat6Labs in Abu Dhabi. She then did extensive research on the startup hub scene in the region and beyond.


With a similar vision to bring people closer together, Hamad Al Shamsi, a UAE national living in Al Ain, co-founded Meftah (meaning “key” in Arabic) with two friends. Launched six months ago after a year and a half of development, the app lists small and large events in the UAE and allows the user to filter them by city or current location.

“It’s not just an events calendar. It’s the ultimate guide for all types of events in the UAE except nightlife and football,” Hamad said.

“Many events aren’t promoted if they don’t have a big budget. We’re going to list charity events, workshops, children’s events, business events and arts events, including those in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai Design District and Youth Hub.”

Events for mothers with children are especially under-promoted and receive what limited coverage they receive is usually on expat-focused sites. Yet, according to Hamad, they are frequently sought after.

Eventually, the 34-year-old entrepreneur hopes to add a ticketing service to the app and to offer event management services. “We want to show the cultural diversity of the UAE, to bring together social groups who rarely meet, and to encourage people to bond more. It’s a dream that I want to see come to life.”

(Editing by Seban Scaria

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