February’s – ‘The Future Issue’ – Download Now

Having celebrated 50 years of incredible vision, we look at the new generation that’s set to drive the next five decades of the UAE.

From aspiring designers to art curators, several names in the industry have been making their mark and innovating in the region.

One of the trailblazers of the next generation in the UAE is Emirati restauranteur Nadia Al Khaja, founder of SMAT. We spoke to her about what it was like growing up in the Emirates, what she loves about the UAE and her hopes for the future.

Growing up in this region, so much has changed over such a short period of time. What has it been like growing up during this time?

Growing up during a time of metamorphosis in the UAE has been magical. I have been able to see the region and industry change to accommodate more cultures, traditions and embed those beliefs in my country. We are now a cosmopolitan nation that has so much to offer within every industry. SMAT is a testament to just that, we offer nostalgic Emirati food with a modern twist.

What do you love about being from the UAE?

I love that the UAE is ever-changing, giving businesses like mine a chance to reinvent themselves whenever possible. Reinvention is growth, and as a young Emirati woman, I believe growth is key.

We recently celebrated 50 years of the UAE, what do you envision for the next 50 years of the UAE?

In the next 50 years, I would hope that the UAE continues to flourish with acceptance and growth. Our nation has been welcoming to young business minds like mine and has encouraged us to make the most of our potential. My dream for the UAE in the next 50 years is to continue to pave the way for young Emiratis and show the world what we have to offer.

How do you hope to pave the way for future generations?

In my journey toward expanding my business and my ongoing quest for education and picking up skills, I hope to motivate and inspire young women to do the same. I want to be able to make a name for myself and be someone that can advise and guide our youth.

What are your hopes for the future of women in this region?

My dreams and hopes for the future women in this region are for them to be able to conquer their dreams, no matter the size. As our country evolves, my wish is that the young women in our society have the courage to fight for their dreams and just as I have, receive unconditional support from our country.

Who are your biggest inspirations in life?

The biggest inspirations in my life are the women in my family. It was through them that my passion for cooking and dining was sparked. It was always around a dinner table where we would bond, discuss heartfelt topics and casual occurrences in our day. This is why I am so grateful to my mother, aunts and grandmothers for teaching me the significance of dining and cooking together. This is also why I have called my concept SMAT, which translates to dining.


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What have been some of the hurdles you’ve experienced in your career, so far?

The biggest challenge that I had faced was learning to become a restauranteur when my background was business management. I started from the bottom where I polished my practical skills in the kitchen, and even acquired my certification and became a professional barista to showcase our original SMAT coffee.

And what have been the key milestones?

My most memorable milestone is opening up SMAT in Dubai Design District in 2021, within the recovery period of the pandemic I was able to open the concept of my dreams and did so successfully.

This is ‘The Future Issue’ – how do you hope to be a role model for future generations in this region?

I am a firm believer in community, and I think the only way to succeed is if we all come together in support of one another. In the future, I hope that the younger generations can look to me as a role model for my beliefs and my actions. My aim is to grow SMAT into a destination for our community to come together and curate, dine and discuss. I hope that the future generation will look to be an advocate for growth and remember me for the safe haven created for them.

February’s – ‘The Future Issue’ – Download Now

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