H.E. Yousef Al Otaiba, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the United States (US) is an alum and graduate of the class of 1991 at Cairo American College (CAC). He originally began his diplomatic career as Senior Advisor and Director of International Affairs for Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. Now at the UAE Embassy in Washington DC, he has played a major role in enhancing UAE-US relations in military cooperation, trade and economic development and cultural exchange. Most recently, his contribution to the Abraham Accords landed him on the TIME 100 list of the most influential people in the world. In addition to his ambassadorship, he was elevated to Emirati Minister of State in 2017. He also serves the Leadership Council for the Harvard Kennedy School, the Board of Trustees for the American University in Cairo and the Board of Directors for the Special Olympics.
Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba has countless great memories to share with us about his wonderful time at CAC. “Growing up during the 80’s in Cairo and attending one of the best, if not the best school in the Middle East is something I only truly appreciated later in life,” Al Otaiba explained. “CAC was far more than just a first class educational experience. It was sports, arts, CACMUN, after school activities, and most importantly, lifelong friendships. Whether it was studying for a test (that I was inadequately prepared for) or mentally preparing for our next soccer game, CAC constantly triggers happy memories,” he added.
As we spoke to Ambassador Al Otaiba, we could not help but notice how fondly he remembered his time at CAC in Egypt. He spoke to us about having spent his childhood in a fun and safe environment, where he was able to form strong bonds with his teammates on sports trips, and at the international school. “There were also school dances, which I occasionally DJ’ed.That’s right, when my DJ career failed I opted for diplomacy,” added the UAE Ambassador.
Al Otaiba further added, “One anecdote that I think is very interesting is about one year ago two of our friends started a whatsapp group chat for a contingent of the class of 91 alumni. Let me just say that this group has been nothing but non stop entertainment, a support mechanism, a way to immediately feel better during tough times, and truly one of the best things we’ve all experienced in 2020.”
The CAC alum was an active student who took part in different activities from CACMUN to working backstage with the Drama Production team. He also recalls his involvement in many different sports activities, which he says have played a huge factor in who has become today, “I remember our fierce battles against the French (Les Blue) school and the British School (the biscuits). We almost always beat every school we played with. But the Egyptian clubs gave us a run for our money.”
These are just a few of the many great memories that our alumni share with us during their time at CAC. We look forward to hearing from our alumni around the world all they have to say about their memories here.
Class of 1991, Rula Zaki is one CAC Alumna who took the time to give us her thoughts about her time at CAC. She is a remarkably talented young woman who sings in 16 different languages. Discovered by her mother, at the very young age of 9 years old, Rula has received numerous awards; from Arion Music Award for Voice to Grand Prize Winner of the International Song Festival in Cairo. Zaki has also performed in a number of important international and local events, including performing for Queen Elizabeth’s birthday event, the Opening of the new Suez Canal Port in Egypt, and even performed in several events of Egypt’s First Lady.
When asked to recount her memories and time at CAC, Rula had the below to say, “ My parents gave me the best life-long gift: sending me and my sister to CAC. Naming how the school and teachers have shaped me could turn into a novel. My creative nature has been fostered by a village of teachers. Not only did CAC grow my talent in the arts, it also made me realize that I had an athletic side. My track and field coaches taught me discipline and how to constantly push myself through the pain of hours of practice in the scorching heat. Mr. and Mrs. Criens and Mr. Mazhar turned us into champions both on and off the field. Every single educator at CAC was passionate about teaching. The classroom was like their stage and I enjoyed learning from them; so much so, that I became a teacher myself. What I have learned from them in the subject areas and in the manner in which they taught, I am now passing it on to my students. I am inspired and eternally grateful.”
Zaki went on to thank many of her teachers, who she says played a major role in her successful musical career. She thanked her 5th Grade Music teacher, Mr. Larry Catlin who she says was the first to hear the potential in her voice. Mr Catlin took Rula with him to New York during the summer to attend Crane Youth Music School where she was awarded the Most Outstanding Vocalist Award.
The singer also recalled Swing Choir with Mrs. Verna Brummett who taught Rula that singing did not have to mean standing still behind a microphone. Choir and Honor Choir trips with Mr. Montgomery reminded her of rigorous voice training and fun, hilarious moments. Zaki also added, “ Both Mr. Montgomery and Mr. Evans could have been an incredible stand-up comedy duo. I was able to showcase my voice through Honor Choir trips, one of which was funded by my Chemistry teacher, Ms. Mett, because she believed in me. I can still hear Mr. Marshal's voice directing me on stage. He treated us like adult professional actors, and we rose to the occasion because of his high expectations. My Fair Lady remains one of my sweetest memories and accomplishments.
She further mentioned Ms. Hromiak, her English teacher who made her love English as she connected it to drama. She starred in her first musical, “Ferdinand the Bull”.
The CAC Alumna had a lot of great memories to share. It is amazing to hear back from our alumni about how their time at CAC influenced their lives and their careers.