My Best Friend
"We have a real fun chemistry, and it’s amazing to have found that"
Mark Barsby, 33, says best friend Nicola Tatum, 33, brightens up his day
‘Nicola has this really upwards, excitable energy – you meet her and she’s just off-the-cuff funny. I was introduced to her a few years ago at a barbecue and we just clicked; within hours of meeting we were laughing and talking, and we’ve been good friends ever since. We both have a naughty sense of humour and fi nd the most random things funny – we can keep a joke going for weeks and we’ll think it’s hilarious while other people have no idea what we’re laughing about. I love introducing her to my friends because everybody adores her, you just take her out and she is always a hit. If I’mever down, the moment I think about her I feel better and if I’m ever annoyed, I just give her a call and within five minutes I forget what was wrong. It is easy to meet people here in the UAE, but meeting friends who you really have a connection with is a lot harder - luckily with Nicola, I have that, and our friendship makes me feel at ease and at home here. I’m quite a happy, energetic person anyway but I love being around Nicola, we just bounce of each other. I have a lot of friends I get on with but we have a real fun chemistry, and I feel very lucky and privileged to have found that in Dubai.’
"She has brought out a very different side to me that is much more easy going."
Jai Tolani and Harsha Tolani have been together for 12 years
‘Harsha and I met way back when we were at school in Dubai – we were in the same group of friends but we only got together the day I was leaving for university in India, so we started off as a long distance relationship. After two years she came to join me in India and it was great – my life changed for the better from that moment. It sounds like a cliché but in Harsha I found my soul mate. Because we’ve been together for twelve years now, I think we have become very similar but she is still the more practical one, whereas I am probably more of a dreamer, and more free spirited, so she gets me back to reality. I was actually very possessive at the start of the relationship, so she has bought out a very different side to me that is much more easy going and relaxed to be with, and she taught me to take life less seriously. We got married almost five years ago now, and the way it came about was pretty funny. We weren’t officially engaged but our parent found out about our relationship because Dubai has such a tight-knight Indian community and we were family friends as well. One day Harsha’s dad called and said, “I’ve met Jai’s parents, and you guys are sorted, you’re getting married.” Harsha jokes that she is still waiting for a proper proposal from me! We got married in the Park Hyatt in Dubai, and it was great. Thanks to her I’ve learnt that love isn’t just about being protective of each other, love is about letting people go and leaving them to be free. I think that has been her major influence on me, and I can’t imagine what my life would be like without her.’
"If she hadn't been so supportive, I would have ended up back in jail."
George Guljano Hawsho, 32, was inspired by his mother Ester Hawsho
‘When I was younger, I did terrible things. I was around 14 years-old when I started hanging around with the wrong crowd in my native Sweden. I felt restless, and my consciousness was heading in the wrong direction. I didn’t speak to my dad that much, and my relationship with my mum wasn’t great either. I had difficulties listening to other people and I was hard for my family to reach. By the time I was 17, I was in prison serving a two and a half year sentence for attempted murder, and being in prison with other criminals just got me further into bad habits and drugs. Although I didn’t talk to my mum much at the time, she never gave up on me. She came to visit me every Sunday, once a week, the whole time I was in prison – she didn’t miss an opportunity to try to talk to me. She constantly supported me, even though I didn’t always accept it, and she was always in my business, which I found frustrating at the time but it made a difference. I know she cried a lot, and I could hear her in my mind when I was alone. The turning point for me came when I eventually left prison; my best friend, who was involved in the same world of drugs and crime, died. His death made me take a look at my life and question it – on the one hand I had the people who I thought were my friends, but really all we had in common were drugs and crime, and on the other hand I had my mother who never gave up on me. So I chose her. If she hadn’t been so supportive, I would have ended up back in jail, or dead. I’m now studying literature and philosophy, and in my spare time I try and support her as she did me. We spend time together that was lost when I was in prison, for example, we come to Dubai together all the time to visit my sister. Every day I try to show her how grateful I am for sticking by my side and I hope she can now say she’s proud of me, I want to believe she is.'
"The diversity of their personalities has added different shades to mine."
Mohannad Nasralah, 38, says his five sisters influenced his upbringing
‘As the oldest (and only) brother of five sisters, I have definitely been influenced by the women in my family. Being the only boy, I have become a lot more understanding and accommodating of women than I would be if I had grown up with brothers. Because my sisters are all sensitive, I have learnt to be sensitive towards them – in fact, it has made me sensitive towards everyone! Each of my sisters has influenced me – the diversity of their personalities has added different shades to mine in many ways that I perhaps don’t even know myself! Munia (not pictured), the oldest of my sisters, was born shortly after me, so we are very close. She has such a positive attitude and a ‘tough love’ stance, and has taught me not to take myself too seriously and to accept that things won’t go my way all the time. May, the second eldest sister, is so accommodating and always has time to listen to people – so she brings that out in me. My sister Maha is the best person to talk to if you want to take a calculated risk – she will happily sit with you and weigh up all the options, and it is in this way that I really relate to her.
Before my fourth sister Mariam was born, I was hoping for a brother. I was about 10 at the time and I wanted someone to play with, and to take some of the responsibility. But when she came home from the hospital, that was it. She was, and still is, adorable in every way. Mariam is such a sweetheart, yet she is daring too. She has taught me to always be myself, no matter what people may think. From my youngest sister, Maisa, I have learnt not to underestimate people. Despite her age she is very clever and cunning – if I wanted a sister to help me to persuade someone to do something,I would take Maisa! I have learnt so much about life from all of them and I am overjoyed with the fact that I have five sisters. I wouldn’t have it any other way.’