Young and Ambitious: Dana and Noor Alfardan
November 13, 2013
Where once, not long ago, women in the Middle East were often consigned to narrowly defined cultural roles set for them by society, a new generation of young, independent, assertive, well-traveled and highly educated women are making their mark, both at home and abroad. In Qatar, the Arabian Gulf’s fastest growing cultural hub, Dana and Noor Alfardan, daughters of renowned Alfardan Group Vice President Ali Alfardan, have set a shining example for this new age. Actively taking the reins in diverse areas of the family’s business, the two sisters have become successful young professionals while joining the ranks of many of their generation’s leading trendsetters. Actively paving the way ahead for Qatar, and reveling in the benefits of development and modernization, Dana and Noor Alfardan remain steadfast in their traditions, core values and love for Qatar’s rich history.
Alfardan Group is one of Qatar’s leading conglomerates and has emerged as one of the most renowned names in the Gulf. The Group includes operations in real estate, automobiles, marine services, exchange services, trade, jewelry and hospitality. Today, Dana and Noor are the third generation of the Alfardan family to join the ranks of Alfardan Group as active business leaders.
Youth and Ambition
Dana and Noor do not deny that they are fortunate to have been born into a life of privilege. At the same time, they are grateful for being part of a family with deep-rooted values, and a love and respect for their homeland. Appreciating art, music and culture, Dana and Noor also espouse an understanding of the world and openness to its many diversities. This perspective has provided them with countless opportunities to learn and grow that go far beyond simply being part of an affluent and influential family, and have helped guide them while remaining committed to a set of core values.
Both Dana and Noor are determined go-getters with clear goals and ambitions for their future. In preparation for their plunge into business, they initially attended school in Qatar, and then completed their university studies at the American University of Sharjah, UAE. Noor studied design management, while Dana majored in international relations and political science. The two sisters also attended the Gemology Institute of America in London to further prepare them for the challenges of a highly competitive business.
Alfardan Jewellery was established in 1954, and is recognized today as a one of the world’s leading pearl and jewelry trading houses while representing over 40 unique international brands. Dana and Noor, who were exposed to the glamorous world of luxury jewelry at a very young age, feel a true sense of belonging to this aspect of the family business, and are comfortable working in the enormous and highly competitive family of world jewelers. “Some of our clients have known us since we were little girls,” says Noor. “The jewelry industry is known to be very intimate. Many companies are family-owned, and still build their reputations and business relationships on the family heritage,” she added with a smile.
“Jewelry design is my hobby and my passion. I spend most of my time designing,” says Noor, who is bringing a fresh perspective to the business and has created her own line of jewelry that is well-suited to the tastes of a young generation of jewelry connoisseurs. She has also designed some pieces for Chopard. “Because I have been exposed to all aspects of the family business, I have learned to critically focus on how the market responds to a particular product,” she explained.
The two sisters were very close growing up and remain very close today, yet they have very different personalities and have actively cultivated very different and individual interests. These differences are obvious when looking at their jewelry choices; Noor prefers solitaire rings while Dana opts for earrings as an accessory of choice. Noor prefers feminine and creatively designed watches while Dana is more interested in a watch’s complications and the strength of its mechanisms. “I prefer men’s watches, and even wear them after personalizing them a bit,” says Dana. “Today, jewelry is becoming more personalized and people are becoming more individualistic. Watches help define who you are by illustrating your preferences, your style and your needs; it is not there to simply inform you of the time.”
Redefining the future
Today, Noor is very much immersed in the creative side of jewelry design, while Dana has taken on the role of marketing manager for Alfardan Hospitality, where she has become adept at introducing fresh marketing ideas for Maze restaurant (by Gordon Ramsey), and Qatar’s own Italian chain Bice restaurant; both located at the The Pearl – Qatar. “Jewelry is going to be something I will always be involved with naturally, because it is our family business, but hospitality is such a fast-growing field, and I felt it was necessary for me to be here, to get involved, and to drive all of these developments,” explains Dana. “Noor is very involved in jewelry; she lives and breathes it, and I feel I can contribute more to this sector, which is very consistent with my vision and personality.”
Dana has taken great interest in encouraging the arts at Maze and Bice, supporting everything from live performances to contemporary literature. “This love of the arts comes from my family. My uncle Omar is an avid art collector and my father is a huge lover of music. It really comes down to continuity; you get a lot of changes from one generation to another, but there’s always going to be a core. Our core is culture, music, appreciation for Arab art and tradition. These are all shared values. The difference is in how each of us reacts to it and interacts with it,” explains Dana.
It is evident to the Alfardan sisters that Qatari women will never be content in merely sitting back and allowing their country to progress while they observe from the sideline. Qatari women are talented, creative and hardworking, and want to be actively involved in paving the way for a bright future in Qatar and the region for generations to come. “Her Highness, Sheikha Mozah, has developed an exceptionally strong framework to support this effort, particularly in terms of quality education,” says Dana. “We also have constant exposure to cultural elements, whether it’s at the Museum of Islamic Art, the Arab Museum of Modern Art, at the cultural village Katara or other places. So while we enjoy all of the benefits of a modern education and the privilege of being exposed to freedom of thought and expression through the arts, there remains an undeniable eastern touch and character. Modernization does not necessarily mean westernization, so developing our country while still holding on to our roots is something perfectly sound to do,” she asserts.
The winds of change
According to Dana, the role of women has undergone a dramatic evolution in recent years, shifting and expanding along with the changing face of a country that was only a few decades ago on the verge of development, but now faces unprecedented growth and economic prosperity. “I grew up in a Qatar where women were still left out, culturally and socially, in the public sphere. Thanks to Her Highness Sheikha Mozah and to her innovation, creativity and conviction, and relentless effort to bring about societal and cultural change, perceptions of the role and talents of women have been transformed, particularly on the international stage. This is very much her generation,” states Dana.
A role model for young women in Qatar, Sheikha Mozah has always lead by example, proving that women can be many things, and that they are not limited to a single role in life that is dependent upon their gender or social background. “Sheikha Mozah has succeeded in removing the stigma associated with Qatari women being active, assertive and expressive in their ideas within the public eye,” says Dana.
On a personal note…
While Dana and Noor are exceptionally focused and driven to succeed, it is not all work and no play for the two sisters. Both allow themselves some indulgences in the form of travel, personal creativity, sports and social activities. Dana is a busy-body, always active and tennis is her sport of choice. Playing since she was a little girl, tennis is a passion she has picked up from her father. “My father is the founder of the Qatar Tennis Open, which is another part of the family heritage I have picked up on. I also love music; I play the piano and I have a huge collection of all the classics. Portobello in London is definitely a place to be if you are a collector of music. I need to have that balance in my life in order to keep my productivity levels up. If I feel that there is an imbalance, if the ‘yin and yang’ are not there, then I am unable to respond well to the challenges of everyday life,” said Dana.
Like most young people, the sisters enjoy going out and having fun. Dana enjoys dining out at the restaurants she manages while listening to a live performance, or attending a musical performance at the cultural village Katara. Dana and Noor’s favorite escape is Southern Italy, where they like to soak in the region’s traditional charm. The sisters travel far and wide, and attend various events and film festivals. They are both active with the NGO ‘Reach Out To Asia’, and Dana is also joining the advisory board of the International Relations department at their university, and will be starting a sports council in the alumni department.
Dana and Noor have allowed us a glimpse into the lives of the new generation of women, one that is the beating heart of Qatar – open to change, advancement and progress, while taking root and growing in the light of their cherished traditions and values. They are the promise of a future that is nothing short of brilliant!