Emirati businessman and founder of Al Ghurair Group Saif Ahmed Al Ghurair died in Dubai on Tuesday aged 95.
Born in Deira on the shores of Dubai Creek in 1924, the eldest of five sons born to Ahmed Al Ghurair, he soon became involved in the family business which at that time was pearl diving. Even as a teenager he would spend up to four months at a time at sea, living off rice, dates and fish.
As the nokhada, or owner’s representative, on board, one of Al Ghurair’s most important duties was to safeguard the pearls which he would place in a small wooden box inside a compartment on top of which he slept.
However, by the 1930s the emergence of cultured pearls from Japan made pearl diving a far less lucrative business and the family branched into trading. Furthermore, the small pearling boats were reconditioned for longer voyages and heavier loads and they began taking dates from Iraq to Africa and India from where they would return with textiles and teak logs for boat building. Later, gold was added to the cargo as Dubai became an important centre for trade in the precious metal.
During one stormy voyage to India, the wind and water lashed into Al Ghurair’s face, causing agonising irritation in one eye. “When I got to India it was hurting so much I went to the doctor to stop the pain. He said he could stop the pain, but that I would lose my eye. I told him to stop the pain. Thank God it was only one eye!” he said.
Expanding business interests
Al Ghurair established Al Ghurair Group in 1960 to bring together the family’s diverse and expanding business interests. Under his stewardship the group diversified into numerous business lines, including retail, manufacturing and real estate.
Notably, according to the company website, he also drilled into his employees the importance of excelling in customer service.
“The core of [the group’s] success has always lied in its winning corporate culture; that promotes growth and fosters innovation, and in its customer-driven strategy, that is guided by quality, creative solutions, and a non-stop search for better ways to serve our clients,” he said.
In brief, his funeral prayers will be held in Dubai on Tuesday afternoon at Al Qusais graveyard.