AbdulSalam AlRafi was born in 1942, the son of Mohammed Rafi Mohammed Saeed AlRafi — a successful foodstuff merchant who began his own trading business in 1927 during the height of the Gulf’s pearl-diving era.
Growing up, AbdulSalam learned essential lessons from his father regarding the value of honour, keeping one’s word and pursuing long-term growth one step at a time. Between 1953 and 1957, AbdulSalam AlRafi attended the historic Ahmadiya School — the first formal school to be established in Dubai and the seat of learning for many of the Emirate’s leading families, including Dubai’s ruling Al Maktoum family. After graduating from Al Ahmadiya School, AbdulSalam worked with his father importing foodstuffs.
From his father, AbdulSalam learned the importance of “hard work and perseverance, and to abide by the teachings of Islam: honesty, truth and respect of others.”
In 1957, AbdulSalam established his own trading company before later expanding into foodstuff manufacturing. He says this was “the turning point” in his life “as it combined trade, industry and craftsmanship in a smart and ambitious way.” In 1970, he further expanded his company’s operations into real estate.
It was in this industry that he observed that the law of supply and demand provides a powerful guide for decision making. He saw that, provided market demand is read correctly, real estate can deliver financial returns more quickly than trading. AbdulSalam always attributes his real estate success to his work in the souq:
“Success builds upon prior successes”, he said, adding, “The school of life provides the best education.”
AbdulSalam enjoyed travelling abroad because of the way it broadens the mind as well as encouraging his own ambition. He travelled extensively in Asia and Europe, including multiple trips to countries as varied as South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Britain, Germany and France. A deeply religious man, AbdulSalam was always heavily involved in philanthropy and community service “for the sake of God and for the good of others.”
His charity work was also inspired by the example of the UAE leadership. “Through their humanitarian initiatives, they have taught us the importance of philanthropy” AbdulSalam said at the time SRG Holding announced its funding of the Rashid Hospital outpatient clinic building. “I would like to give back to my homeland, and therefore I decided to undertake this project,” he said.
Every day at dawn, AbdulSalam would read the Quran, and he enjoyed attending local majlises, where leading members of the community would discuss the important issues of the day, as well as cultural, philosophical and scientific topics. These gatherings provide an opportunity for him to continue learning. As he observed, “Youth have much to benefit from the experience and knowledge of their elders.”