Sayyah M. Mossa Al Qibaisi, the former First Undersecretary of Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Department (WED), is a man with exceptional self-reliance and persistence qualities who climbed the ladder of success step by step until he became the prominent businessman of today. Al Qibaisi shared with us in this interview the ebbs and flows of his life as well as his memories with WED;
My name is Sayyah M. Mossa Al Qibaisi and I was born in Liwa area and I came to Abu Dhabi in 1964 at the age of 15. I stayed at Al Waswasi Mosque in Khalifah Street, just next to the Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) premises where I used to spend the night, have my food and start looking for a job.
One day I met an Irish man called Mr. Dealy whom I told that I am looking for a job and he directed me to do an IQ test in which I passed and he offered me a job with BP for just 30 rupees.
Meanwhile, I met an Indian man who offered me a job of cleaner in Das Island for 189 Indian Rupees and I accepted his offer and went to Das Island on propeller-powered we used to call it "Um Ahmed". In Das Island I was offered scholarship to work in housekeeping in the morning and study in the Training Centre of BP in the evening and that lasted for two years.
Back to Abu Dhabi:
Then I met Mr. Dealy again and he asked me to come back to Abu Dhabi to join the training centre of BP there. In Abu Dhabi I lived with a group of my friends in a barasti (Arish) in Hamdan Street where we used to do our homework in the evening under the light of an electric lamp powered by the generator of the shop of the businessman Rashid bin Awaidah or use our own oil lantern until we were graduated with City F Gilt certificate in 1966.
In the same year, 1966, me and my friends Faraj bin Hammoudah, Abd Allah Nassir Ali were the first local people to be offered scholarships to study engineering in the UK. I studied mechanical engineering in the University of Wales Swansea and graduated in 1974 and rejoined BP in Abu Dhabi.
In 1976 I have been appointed as the Technical Director of the Water and Electricity Department (WED) and then as First Undersecretary of the same department under Sheikh Suroor bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, then Chairman of WED. The department was the sole producer and distributor of water and electricity across the emirate which was rapidly expanding. The late Sheikh Zayed got a very ambitious vision for developing the emirate and providing its residency with basic services of high quality. However, the pace of work was very slow and incompatible with the ambitions of the emirate's people. To cope with this, WED staff used to work around-the-o'clock to fulfill these aspirations.
Production, transmission and distribution:
Al Qibaisi added; "In its pursuit to improve the whole sector, the department deemed it necessary to improve the three parts of its work, production, transmission and distribution. And ignoring any one of the three sides undeniably would had had have its impact on all of them".
Water and electricity:
As for the achievements of the WED during his tenure, he said; "WED adopted a 20 years plan for the execution of a number of projects including the establishment of plants in Um Al Naar, East and West, Al Ain, Bani Yas, Al Marfa and the largest of them in Taweelah A and B. In the later we were able to install the largest desalination units worldwide then, each of which with the total capacity of 12 MG per day. We were very determined on having power and desalination units in each of these stations. In addition we procured a mobile desalination unit to provide Abu Dhabi's islands with water".
Grids and networks:
We also established a 220 KV transmission line from Abu Dhabi to Al Alin besides 11,33 and 132 KV networks, with underground lines inside Abu Dhabi island, although they were expensive and overhead lines outside it besides main substations, he said. This is in addition to installing lighting systems on Abu Dhabi-Duabi, Abu Dhabi-Al Ain and Abu Dhabi-Dubai highways, he said.
A 18-inch line for water transmission from Abu Dhabi to Al Ain was also established to replace the old 9-inch line from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi besides one more line from Al Taweelah to Al Ain with the total capacity of 4o MGs per day.
Al Qibaisi added; "To meet the expansion of the WED works, we decided to establish a separate department for the islands and remote areas and one for Al Ain and its dependencies with the main office in Abu Dhabi to plan and supervise all their works with close supervision of the late Sheikh Zayed and the direct follow-up of WED chairman".
WED also contracted a number of international consultants, including the UK Electricity Council, to evaluate the performance of its different sections and units, particularly the accounts department which was of a great importance for improving the department as whole.
WED also established a training centre at Umm Annar area to provide technical, engineering, administrative and financial training to the UAE nationals who joined the department's sections and units. One of them is Abd Al Jaleel Khori who was later promoted to be the director of Umm Annar East and West plants.
Al Qibaisi is proud that department during his tenure established a solar-powered water desalination unit in Umm Annar area. "This facility was established by a Japanese company in the 1970s as the first-of-its-kind in UAE and I recall that one of the consultants companies that worked on it was " Dr. M.H. Ali El-Saie (CONSULTING ENGINEERS)".
"We contracted Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the British Electricity Co. to conduct a technical evaluation study of the WED, which was very helpful in improving our work". Based on this study, we hired Bechtel Corporation in 1990 to evaluate what we have so far achieved and to estimate our needs for the following ten years, from 1990 to 2000, to be revised every four years," he said.
"Since the department's activities have expanded tremendously we established a Life Model at Umm Annar area to study the water course in light of the huge dredging works that took place in the gulf at that time so as to decide the best locations for any future water desalination plants," he said.
In association with the Abu Dhabi Municipality, a fully equipped water lab was also established. "This lab used to do studies about desalinated water," he said.
Al Qibaisi recalls, "Sheikh Zayed was very keen on providing the people, locals and expats alike, with their needs he used to follow-up all the department's activities and I recall that he personally ordered us to establish AL Marfaa plant that was a turning point in the production of water and electricity in the emirate".
Thanks to the directives of the late Sheikh Zayed, H.H. Sheikh Khalifah bin Zayed, then Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, and Sheikh Suroor bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, the department managed successfully to improve the water and electricity sector tremendously, he said.
Al Qibaisi recalls that they used to hire a number of prominent consultancy companies such as Lahmeyer International, Dr. Ali Elsaie Consulting Engineers and others.
"Al Shaibah Khamees Al Dhahiri, Saeed Ateeq, Dr. Derwish Mohammehd Khamis Al Qibaisi, Eng. Sarhan Al Sarhani, Eng. Ahmed Saeed Al Miraiki, Eng. Hassan Al Nassay, Eng. Habeeb Ahmed of Pakistan, Mohammed Othman Abas of Sudan, the later worked as WED Legal Advisor for 18 years, are just few to say of those who worked with me," he said.
Water and Electricity today:
"I see that the water and electricity sector has gone very great strides, thanks to our visionary leadership and the dedication of those who work in it". Adding; "Thanks God, we have not experienced water or electricity disconnection for a long time".
Al Qibaisi works now as a businessman and has a group of companies that work in trade, travel, tourism and yacht rental, etc.
He enjoys trekking and practices it from 6 to 8 PM daily besides fishing.
He got married in 1974 and has one son and a number of daughters and all of them joined their father's businesses.