Mariatou Sarr has a rare cosmopolitan character. She was born and bred in The Gambia in West Africa, married to a man from Zimbabwe in Southern Africa, and currently lives and works in Dubai in the Middle East, where she bagged a top restaurant job.
In this interview, she openly talks about her life's journey, from her humble beginnings as a radio worker to her trials and triumphs in the Golf state.
What’s On-Gambia: Tell us briefly about yourself?
Mariatou: I am 24 years old; I was born and raised in The Gambia, lived in Kanifing Estate, got married about a year ago to a wonderful husband, Bilal Lloyd Mupedzi from Zimbabwe.
When and why did you move to Dubai?
Coming to Dubai wasn't something that I had planned. I was working with Afri Radio. We opened the radio and took over from KWT.
But one day, I had a call from my uncle asking if I wanted to move to Dubai. I thought he was joking because I had completely given up on travelling abroad. All I wanted was a Law Degree at the University of The Gambia after years of trying to leave the country.
I remember my mum would always tell me just leave everything in Allah's hands and he will take care of it. When I finally stopped obsessing it happened. My uncle called and said there was a visa waiting for me and that's how I ended up here, in late 2012.
Are you employed?
I am currently the first and the youngest female African restaurant manager at the Cheese Cake Factory in Dubai. It's a multi-million dollar restaurant with celebrity customers like Akon, Florida, Selena Gomez, Kid Ink and many others.
But I started as a runner; basically I get the food from the kitchen and take it to the guests. The plates were heavy and extremely hot, and I would do that for 8 hours back and forth. I would get home and cry myself to sleep. My knees would hurt. I wanted to give up and go back to The Gambia. I couldn't even tell people the truth about what I was doing. I was embarrassed.
I had a talk with my Grandma and she said to me that there are no small jobs, only small minded people and that changed my whole outlook. I started working harder than I ever could and my managers started noticing me. We had thirty different nationalities in the building and three hundred staff members, but I wasn't ready to give up. Eventually, I was given tables to serve guests same as a waiter would. I was later promoted to a supervisor.
I would work like a beast and then pass out on my bed at night. Recently, I got promoted to a manager and guess what? It was a dream comes true for me! I wake up sometimes and still can’t believe it's true. I had so much support and prayers from my family and friends. Whenever I wanted to quit my husband would remind me of everything I had accomplished and that would keep me motivated. My General Manager, Adam Norotsky is also amazing. , It's one of the few places in the world where it's doesn't matter to them what color your skin is, who you are or where you from.
Why is Dubai so famous?
Dubai is a beautiful place; it's luxurious to its core. Beyond its beauty there is another world of drugs, prostitution and the like but in all honesty which country doesn't have that these days? Where there is good, there is always bad.
Are you close to the Gambian Community?
Yes I know a few Gambians in Dubai. But I like keeping my circle small, it’s easier that way. My husband is my best friend over here. I also have my in-laws.
How often do you visit The Gambia?
I was in The Gambia last year. I'll be back next year InshaAllah. Home is truly where the heart is. You never truly know how authentic that phrase is until you travel.