Today Hussain Sajwani is thought of as the quintessential Dubai tycoon, a sharp businessman who has astutely cashed in on the transformation of Dubai into a world-class city. However, his origins are more humble than one might imagine. Sajwani was born in Dubai into a lower middle-class family. The son of a shopkeeper and a market peddler, he grew up with the struggles of entrepreneurship all around him. He attended college in the United States, at the University of Washington, and even before returning the UAE, he became successful at selling timeshares in Dubai.
When he later returned to his native country, he took a government job as a contracts manager. But he grew restless and used his timeshare profits in order to plant the seed of what first was a fledgling empire.
It is no longer fledgling, of course. Sajwani began rise to the top by founding a catering company that quickly became one of the largest caterers in the region and supplied the US government during Desert Storm and the Iraq War. His real estate development company, DAMAC, came to prominence after Dubai began allowing foreign ownership of properties in specific areas of the city. His ability to think quick and act fast made it possible for him to make it out of both the dot com collapse and the 2008 financial crisis unscathed. Despite the fact construction in Dubai all but came to a halt as a result of the 2008 meltdown, DAMAC was still building. In all, Damac has built 37 buildings with a grand total of 8,000 units, not to mention the other 65 buildings which are almost complete.
In addition to real estate, Sajwani formed private equity firm DICO Investments in 1992, which has made a wide range of investments in capital markets. Through his investments, he came to own a 40% stake in one of the largest insurance companies in the Middle East. Sajwani has also served on a number of corporate boards, both in the Middle East and the United States.