How to Help Build an Emirate and an Incredible Legacy
A stalwart figure in the Middle East, Jacobs’ Mel Stewart’s decades of work, along with his legacy of impactful project experience, secured major infrastructure developments and consulting opportunities to help build the Emirate of Sharjah.
Photo courtesy of Al Khan / The National
Participating in a legacy closely tied to a nation’s founding, Mel Stewart, by virtue of his professionalism and close relationship with the royal family of Sharjah, achieved what few can lay claim to.
He forged and cemented a rapport between Jacobs and the Emirate of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates that spans decades of infrastructure development.
Recently honored in an article by the United Arab Emirates’ newspaper, The Nationalhis notable career in the UAE began in the mid-1970s, carries on today and will undoubtably impact people in Sharjah for generations ahead.
Jacobs’ history in the UAE
Jacobs’ (then Halcrow) presence in the region began in the mid-1950’s and work in Sharjah, the UAE’s third largest emirate, followed an initial opportunity in Dubai to survey Dubai Creek in 1956. Situated northeast of the more popular Emirate of Dubai, Sharjah connects the Arabian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman (Indian Ocean) with the Hajar Mountains between the two.
Sharjah is known for a thriving city originally known for hundreds of pearling vessels, but now built on industry and culture - including numerous museums. Residents of the UAE enjoy road trips from the City of Sharjah to Alrafisah Dam and Khorfakkan via a road that Jacobs help build.
Mel arrives in the Arabian Peninsula
When Mel arrived in the Arabian Peninsula, he was no stranger to the region. As a civil engineer and a Chartered Member of the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE), he started his career with Halcrow in 1968 when he was sent to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to work across the country, including Khobar and Riyadh. From there he transferred to Australia for three years to work on the Cairncross Dockyard, Brisbane and then to Oman to be Resident Engineer on Port Qaboos and to assist with the Thumrait Airbase and road projects in Salalah.
Mel arrived in Sharjah in 1974 to be the Resident Engineer for the Sharjah Deepwater Harbour. This was a sizable project in those days and the Emir of Sharjah – His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi – himself, a qualified engineer, visited the site at least once a week during construction. Thanks to his engineering background, His Highness had no problem reading engineering drawings. On his visits, the Emir would sit with Mel in the office inspect the drawings and suggest design modifications.
Building relationships, an Emirate and a legacy
Mel's audiences with The Ruler began a relationship that has endured over the years. In 1977, the port was completed, and Halcrow’s representative, John Greenhalgh, retired and took up a position in the Diwan Al Amiri (the Ruler’s) office. Halcrow forwarded names of senior staff to replace John, but HH Sheikh Sultan asked for Mel to be given the position. Mel’s appointment was announced at a dinner party at the Emir’s palace for all Halcrow staff in the UAE.
Since that momentous appointment, Jacobs has engineered nearly all of Sharjah’s infrastructure including the ports of Khor Fakkan and Hamriyah, water supply systems, sewerage and sewage treatment, lagoon developments, roads and highway structures. The Emir of Sharjah became, and still is today, one of our most important clients.
"His Highness often provides assistance to the poorer Islamic countries. He does not donate money and rather chooses to arrange the construction of schools, clinics, mosques, etc.," says Mel regarding his association with the Emir. "While I was his advisor, I was fortunate to be involved in such projects: visiting and arranging the construction of a fishing harbour in the Comoros Islands, the construction of 200 water wells in Niger, a water resource study in Zanzibar and the design of an airport runway in Somalia."
Mel’s personal relationship with the Emir translated into a solid business relationship between Halcrow (now Jacobs) and Sharjah and facilitated community building. Our role in the development of the Emirate for most of Sharjah’s formal existence has led to it playing a significant part in its history by providing connectivity to the people and communities within Sharjah and to the rest of the Emirates.
Mel worked as Jacobs’ Regional Managing Director, Middle East, North Africa, and the Levant from 1983 to 1998 and directly for HH Sheikh Sultan as his Engineering Advisor from 1998 until 2008. He then re-joined our team in February 2009 as a part-time Special Advisor.
The pinnacle of his career occurred in 1991 when he was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth and the Key to Sharjah by the Ruler of Sharjah.
A stalwart figure in the Middle East, Mel’s prominent news piece in The National (the leading newspaper of the UAE) features his decades of work with the Ruler of Sharjah. His legacy and relationships secured major infrastructure developments and consulting opportunities for Jacobs.
You can watch Mel discuss "Infrastructure and Urban Development in the UAE and Vernacular Architecture in the UAE (2016)” on a panel (posted by National Pavilion UAE on Vimeo).
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