Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al-Thani: Success by Passion
When you are fortunate enough to be keenly aware of your life’s purpose, and your goals and dreams dance vividly in your eyes, there is very little that can stand in the way of following your destiny’s path. This is precisely how Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al-Thani started his journey; leading an inspiring, affluent and highly successful life. Sheikh Faisal’s unrelenting ambition has led him to many personal and professional triumphs, and in turn has made him into a respected icon for the generations to follow and admire.
Sheikh Faisal is described as an industrious, self-made man. He got an early start in his career by founding a small automobile parts business over four decades ago. He later established Al Faisal Holding – a multi-million dollar enterprise – further declaring himself as a significant businessman in the local economy. Today, Sheikh Faisal is the chairman of Al Faisal Holding, overseeing over 40 companies operating in a spectrum of sectors to include construction, real estate development, education, trade, entertainment and hospitality.
In 2001, Sheikh Faisal also founded Aamal, a conglomerate comprised of 23 individual businesses operating in four primary segments: Industrial manufacturing, trading and distribution, property, and managed services. Aamal has since evolved to become one of Qatar’s largest, most diversified, and fastest growing companies and has been listed on the Qatar Exchange Since 2007.
Sheikh Faisal also serves as the president of the Qatari Businessmen Association, and even owns his own museum, the Sheikh Faisal Museum, which showcases a wide range of priceless antiques and artifacts relating to culture, the arts and regional history. From swords and early types of Islamic armor, to ancient coins, books, manuscripts, paintings, carpets, classic cars, ceramics and more, all from different periods and cultures, the museum is truly a treasure of Qatar and a testament to Sheikh Faisal’s connection with the past as he takes his business to the future.
At his invitation, Today’s Outlook sat down with this exceptional man at the Sheikh Faisal Museum for an exclusive one-on-one interview, offering us a fascinating look into his views on family, fortune, and the future of Qatar.
Aamal and Faisal Holding are two of the biggest companies in Qatar today. Tell us about your journey. How difficult was it to reach this level of success?
I started working when I was quite young, about 16 years old. Even then, I had a vision and goals that I had set for myself. I believed firmly that with time, I would eventually reach those goals. Nothing comes easy in life, so yes, I worked hard, and today Aamal is a large and successful company, growing more and more each year. But even with this success and growth, we still aim to reach higher. As you know, Aamal is a diversified public company with interests in a variety of fields ranging from hospitality to tourism, real estate to industry. Our goals are now to continue to grow the company beyond being local or regional. We want to become international on a worldwide scale.
How does it feel to be a major participant in a country that is undergoing such tremendous growth and success?
I feel proud and happy to be witnessing first-hand the growth that Qatar is experiencing. Qatar has changed a lot, and today, our present is brighter than ever before. Thanks to the vision of His Highness the Emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the country is becoming a leader on many levels. People are noticing the great strides that Qatar is making right now. We’re growing in leaps and bounds and realizing great accomplishments. In education, we have developed some of the best universities in the world. We have great healthcare services and medical facilities. Our national airline, Qatar Airways, is one of the few five-star airlines in the world, and continues to spread its wings by regularly adding new destinations and growing its fleet of aircraft. Qatar also enjoys a level of safety that is unmatched. All of these accomplishments were reached in a relatively short period of time. Winning the bid for World Cup 2022 demonstrates that the world recognizes and appreciates Qatar, that our nation is competent and capable, and that Qatar plans and executes efficiently and effectively. I’m proud to be a citizen of a country that enjoys political stability and strong economic growth while being so open to other people and cultures. Expatriates and visitors feel very much at home here because Qataris are welcoming, open, friendly and generous. We love people and we want them to love us back.
What personal qualities have proved helpful to you in your journey to success?
I love to work, and have been involved in many different fields over the years. I worked on a variety of projects and business ventures. Some were fruitful and some were not. Fortunately, I learned quickly from my mistakes, and was usually able to focus on what was or would be successful. But I think the most significant factor is related to the way I treat people. I always treat people well, with dignity and respect, because it’s only human and fair to treat others the way you want them to treat you. Ambition is also a key element. I always dreamed big, and aimed big. I planned my actions well and identified milestones and markers that guided me to reaching my final goals. I didn’t often get sidetracked by things. I also never felt that I couldn’t accomplish something. Life brings opportunities. Some of these opportunities have risks attached to them, but if you have a clear vision of what your goals are, where you want to be and a plan on how to get there, then you’ll be able to take advantage of these opportunities while overcoming the challenges and obstacles.
Did you have a role model while growing up?
When I was young, I was influenced a lot by my father. I used to accompany him a great deal, allowing me to meet people from all walks of life. Some were politicians; others were government employees, businesspeople, journalists, merchants, professors, and a host of others. I used to enjoy listening to their stories and hearing them talk about the issues that mattered to them. I learned so much from these simple encounters without even realizing it at the time. To me, this is the school of life. You really learn a lot simply by interacting with others. When I entered the business world, I felt very much at ease dealing with people from very different backgrounds. I was also heavily influenced by my family. To me, the family is in itself a school. Your home can have the greatest influence on you because it’s really where you learn your first words, you learn about love, discipline, respect and culture.
Speaking of the importance of family and home life, you have 10 children. How do you find the balance between work and spending time with them?
I am very fortunate to have wonderful people who work for me – people that I trust and rely on. This permits me to not have to work excessively at this stage of my life, and to have enough time for my family. When I’m at work, I focus on work. But once I’m done, I spend an adequate amount of time with my family. I have children that just graduated from university, but I also have younger kids. To me, it’s crucial that I spend enough time with them, in the same way that my father spent time with me.
What qualities do you hope to instill in them?
I believe that the greatest thing I can offer my children is an excellent education, in all of its myriad forms. It is much more important to me to offer my children this gift, the gift of thought, rather than simply leaving them wealth. A good education will be with them their entire lives. It doesn’t go away, and it will allow them to grow as individuals, to enter the business world, and to succeed in both their personal and professional lives. When you are blessed with living a comfortable life, you should not take it for granted. You should enjoy it, but enjoy it wisely. I don’t overindulge my children, but we do enjoy traveling and doing other fun things together. Many people ask me why I spend so much money on my museum rather than saving it for my children. I tell them that it is for my children, so they will understand their past, their history and their culture. I also want them to know that just as I made myself from nothing, and was able to accomplish a great deal while starting my life with very little, my children can do the same. They will have opportunities, just as I did, and they will have the education and values to take advantage of them. There’s nothing worse in life than living with the expectation that everything will come easily and that there are no risks. This is not life, this is captivity. The joy of life is in working to reach a place that makes you happy, wherever that may be, and not being given everything. The pride and dignity of self-accomplishment builds character, and is both liberating and honorable.
Tell us about your personal interests and hobbies, and what urged you to build such an amazing museum of your own?
I love the sea, and I love fishing; both are an integral part of our culture. When it comes to my interests, I recall that I went through a number of stages in my life where I collected so many different things – from stamps to coins, and even matches. At every age I seemed to be interested in something different. My late father, Sheikh Qassim Bin Faisal, had a sizeable collection of various things he had acquired during his many travels, and I started adding to this collection when I was still small. I collected natural things first, such as fossils that I found in the desert throughout Qatar. Then I started to add old books and manuscripts, and through the years, I acquired a vast collection of woodworks, Islamic and pre-Islamic coins, paintings, textiles, ceramics and classic cars. As the collection grew, I decided to build my own museum so people can come and learn about our heritage, and the history of Qatar and the region. Today, I have over 15,000 pieces displayed at the museum, which is open to everyone.
What is your favorite vacation escape?
To me, the best part of a vacation is not where you are, but rather who you are with. When you travel alone, even to the most wonderful or exotic places, you might not enjoy it as much. Happiness is with the company of the people you love and cherish; when they’re all having a great time, the vacation becomes more enjoyable for me. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in Lebanon. For 20 straight years, I spent every single summer and part of the winter in Lebanon. I have many cherished memories there. We used to also take a ship from Beirut and travel to Egypt and Greece. I still travel a great deal with my family, particularly to England, Italy, Spain and the United States.
Do you have any advice to share with our readers?
I think that most people realize the importance of education for ensuring a bright future for our young generation. There’s no question that Qatar’s greatest wealth lays in the potential of its youth. But I think that when a young man or woman is still in high school, parents should help them to identify their calling in life and encourage them to pursue it. If they’re interested in industry, or science, or music or the arts, whatever it is, this interest should be nurtured at an early age, and not simply directed after graduating from college. Many young men and women graduate from university and are still lost as to what they are truly interested in, and what they want to do with their lives. Some may even question whether they have any passion for the specialty they worked hard on to master while in college. Although it isn’t too late, this is a disadvantage. Both parents and teachers should encourage the young to follow their interests and strengths early on, no matter what those might be. Not all children are equally smart, capable or driven. Some kids can read a book in a day, while others struggle to read a single page in a day. Yet, if even these struggling students are guided to focus on their own gifts and capabilities, they will be able to shine equally among their peers.
I hope that our youth will rise to the challenge and play an integral part in helping us reach the Qatar National Vision 2030, under the wise leadership of His Highness the Emir. I believe that the future and potential of Qatar has never been brighter!