Ahlaam Ali moved from the United Kingdom (UK) to Dubai 18 years ago. Ali, who is biracial and a woman of substance, arrived in Dubai on her own.

Her father is from Kuwait and mother from Karachi, Pakistan, which lends to her persona of amazing grace.

Ahlaam, which means dreams in Arabic, encompasses the way Ali lives her life. She dreams big and has mostly achieved them all. Ali has lived in Dubai the longest that she has ever lived in any place — 17 years and counting — and the emirate’s innovative and exuberant vibe has bowled her over.

‘Dubai’s innovative zeal has caught my imagination in a big way,” she says while comfortably ensconced in her tastefully done-up living room in a villa at the Springs.

The living room’s walls exude her persona, eloquently captured in Islamic calligraphy by Bin Qalandar, a reputed Pakistani artist and a son of a Sufi sage, and also Sadequain Naqqash, another Pakistani artist of eminence.

She looks back in wonder, about the life-altering experience of the city.

‘Destiny’s child’

In 2004, Ali came to Dubai with the sole purpose of starting life afresh.

In around three weeks, she had found a job as a manager in a marketing and public relations (PR) firm. After having set up a home, a car and admission in a school for her four-year-old son Jibran — the name was inspired by Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese-American littérateur and artist — she went back to pack up her life in the UK.

A week later she was back in Dubai with Jibran and was firmly settled in her new job in no time. That’s the beauty of Dubai, which overnight transformed the course of her life.

Earlier, she had jettisoned her formal grounding in fashion — she holds a degree from London College of Fashion along with a master’s degree in business administration (MBA). She had studied in New English School, Kuwait. Ali is a British national, as she was born on an English ship that was sailing from Pakistan to Kuwait. “I have been a destiny’s child,” she says.

But her life story took a dramatic turn, as Dubai gave her myriad opportunities to explore the innovative business ideas she had been tirelessly working on through the years.

After a couple of years in her job, Ali decided to venture out on her own by creating and launching an innovative Dancercise programme. This was the beginning of a long fruitful and exciting entrepreneurial journey.

She had started out with Powwer Bhangra as a Bollywood Dancercise programme with Fitness First, which was then known as Hayya Club.

This fun and funky workout took Dubai and the other emirates by storm. It went beyond the daily gym routine to keep fitness enthusiasts in shape. The Powwer Bhangra vibe really caught on across the UAE and people would attend her classes and came from far and wide such as Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah. “It was quite a rage for a good five years when many me-toos started trickling in,” Ali says.

“I’m also a good money manager, as we all need to be when you are new in business. I am a very focused person, and I simply followed my dream with blinkers on. Although I’ve learned to relax a bit now since my son is pursuing an undergraduate degree in computer science and machine learning from Cambridge University and my main goal has been achieved,” she says. “Now, it’s all about upskilling and putting back to the community. I absolutely love what I do and it’s very satisfying to look back and appreciate how far I’ve progressed in life. At times, we forget to appreciate and be grateful for our progress,” she adds.

Gut instinct

Ali has been actively pursuing her health and wellbeing platform for more than a decade. She realised the pivotal role that the gut plays in wellbeing. She did a course in gut health and recently graduated as a gut health specialist from the United States and is conducting successful online workshops to help people reset and reclaim their guts. This is a major part of her educational drive to make people aware of the benefits of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.

She has empowered numerous people to benefit from the workshop and plans to introduce many more to enable individuals to take their health into their own hands.

Ali is studying for her degree in Applied Functional Medicine (in training in the US) as she creates new playing fields yet again by moving the narrative beyond the usual weight loss goal to healing your gut.

“In Applied Functional Medicine we don’t just put a band-aid on the symptoms of a ‘Dis Ease’, I actually get to the root cause of the ailment. I dug deep to find out what is causing hypertension or diabetes or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) work with those causes to eliminate the offending problem. Also, I believe there is no disease in our body, it’s just ‘Dis Ease’ which is caused by an imbalance and Inflammation in our bodies.

“Your body gives you signs and signals when it is in ‘Dis Ease’ such as bloating, persistent migraines, water retention, chronic fatigue, diabetes, cholesterol etc. These are not diseases, these are just your body saying that it is out of balance and needs immediate attention,” she says.

“We work so hard and play so hard and give our bodies no Total leucocyte count (TLC). That coupled with stress, bad diets and toxins in our bodies all add up to the various ailments that we experience.”

“It’s never too late to reverse our ‘Dis Eases’, you just have to find the right Functional Medicine Practitioner and they will help you to alleviate a lot of the stress and inflammation in your bodies which automatically addresses various ailments,” she adds.

She has a handy tip for healthy living. “You will be surprised at the interconnectedness of everything in our bodies. Long-term medication, stress and other factors all come together to create havoc and make us suffer with various ailments,” she says.

“Let’s all take our health into our hands and turn it around this year. With the objective that we should ideally be living our lives to the fullest without the aid of long-term medication,” she adds.

A sound wellness advice that sits well amid the raging pandemic.

Small changes can make a big difference to your health

Ali cites an example of a lady, 65, who could not walk for more than five minutes without a walking frame. She suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and was struggling with her health. She did Ali’s programme for 20 weeks. And the inflammation in her body and especially her joints were a thing of the past. She went on a pilgrimage to Mecca six months later. Later, she travelled to Canada and currently travels well with her grown-up kids.

As a bonus she lost 25 kilograms in no time and her immunity is so well boosted that when her entire family contracted SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, she only displayed mild symptoms and the rest of the members were admitted to hospital after being laid up with severe infection. She has maintained her anti-inflammatory lifestyle to come up trumps. Ali is incredibly proud of her. “All Dis Ease is reversible with the right care and commitment.” Just set the intention to get your health back on track this year, that’s her mantra in life.

Take 5 with Ahlaam Ali

Prized possession: My Hummer. I love driving it and take it to the desert regularly. It provides me a sense of security and grounding.

Super-saver mum: When my son and I have to spend Dh5,000 plus on anything we ask ourselves whether it is a NEED or a WANT. I don’t believe in materialism and ostentatious living. We are real, down to earth, and minimalistic mother and son duo.

Best investment: My home in the Springs. Love the greenery and the lake around me. It’s quiet and peaceful, conducive to thinking and working. The birds are chirping away all day and no honking traffic. Feels very idyllic and far from the madding crowd.

Worst purchase: My Porsche handbag. Gives me no joy and I spent way too much money on it that could have been better spent!

Dream vacation: Maldives and Bora Bora island. Maldives has been ticked off the list just recently, and I’m yet to visit Bora Bora.

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