Noura Alblooki is proudly anchored in the stories she has collected from the many battles that she has fought within herself and asks society to think twice before they act on ableist whims.
The varying adventures in Noura’s life fostered her love for media and journalism. She is inspired by her Emirati heritage and the work the country and its leadership does to accelerate and empower everyone within its society.
Noura is a journalist with Abu Dhabi Media, where she creates dedicated content about and for people of determination – be it in the arts, music, culture, or technology.
Graduating from Zayed University, Noura wanted to pursue politics at first, but her attention shifted to the subject of countering violent extremism and the psychology behind the momentary power switch human beings experience before they commit a crime.
“Not everyone can cope with power or handle power, it ultimately switches them,” muses Noura. “I did my senior graduation paper on the influence of power on radicalization, and how power influences behaviors in people. I hope I get to develop the paper further.”
Through her work, she strives to tell her story and those of others in a neutral, unconventional manner. “We need to move on from glorified media to real media, if someone stutters while talking, leave it as is, it’s not meant to be perfect.”
She is an advocate for her country, her culture, and the stories that come from it all, refusing to allow others to judge what she can and cannot do. “Some people tell me ‘You’re in a wheelchair, there is no need to wear the abaya.’ I say no, I love it, I want to keep it alive wherever I go. I make it a bit shorter in the sleeves so it doesn’t get caught with the wheels and it works. I love it.”
“Sometimes I feel I lost more than the ability to walk. I lost myself. Everything that once defined me – my nationality, religion, sex, interests, goals, hopes, and dreams – all faded to the one thing that everyone immediately identifies with me, the wheelchair,” she writes in an article for The National.
Noura was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder at the age of nine. She and her parents would travel to the United States for treatment, and during her second time around, they arrived in Boston the day before the 9/11 attacks.
“We stayed because I had to continue my treatment. We couldn’t afford to go back, my dad had already taken leave and my treatment had to be consistent, we couldn’t let it stop,” she recalls.
Even as a child, Noura remembers herself to be a little diplomat. She was adamant about showing her friends and doctors who her people were. “I was so scared that the friends I had in the hospital would reject me because they knew I was Muslim and Arab. Fortunately, they accepted that what the media depicted wasn’t Islam or Muslims.”
She recalls how her late father would take tokens from the UAE to show their friends and doctors that they were from a beautiful culture and lived in a modern city with a progressive educational system.
This, she says, is what sparked her love for media and writing – wanting the world to see and read about her own unique perspective. “I wanted to tell my perspective. It’s not easy to be young and to suddenly have your life shaken and turned upside down and you can no longer do the things you could do,” she says. “Ultimately, I think it was an incredible experience and a unique journey.”
While in the hospital, there wasn’t much she could do but read, write, and play scrabble. “The first thing I ever wrote about was needles. I hated needles. They used to strap me to the bed to get the needle in. Now I’ll choose needles over pills anyway,” she says humorously.
On a trip to Trivandrum, India many years ago for holistic treatment, Noura realized that accessibility was an issue. This inspired her plan to build a nonprofit organization in South East Asia to empower children and people of determination.
“I have a country, family, and an environment that provides accessible solutions for me to go on with my daily life. I always wonder, what if someone out there can have only a part of these opportunities that we have in the UAE? How life-changing that would be for them.”
Noura reminds us that integration into society is a beautiful goal, but often, as that hurdle is slowly overcome, we forget that people of determination are society itself; that these categories tend to segregate communities, causing further damage and unconscious exclusion.
Through her work as a journalist, Noura aims to tell the unique stories of these communities without glorifying them into inspirational, positive content but in ways that capture the reality of what people are really like.
“I used to wonder if my wheels could keep up with the media, and they can. You can capture the essence of journalism if you truly love it.”
Follow Noura on Instagram: @nouraalblooki