You don’t often come across young, fiercely ambitious and successful CEOs, but then again Nehme Imad Darwiche is a real exception.
At age 31, Darwiche is one of the youngest CEOs in the hotel trade in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. He is the founder and CEO of Jannah Hotels & Resorts.
Sociable Earth caught up with Darwiche to discuss how he created a brand called Jannah and how his faith has helped him shape his humble character.
- Tell us about yourself? How did you become such a successful businessman?
It is all due to Allah’s blessings, of course. I worked for multi-international chains all my life ever since I was a teenager. In my heart, I’ve always felt that the work environment should be more beneficial to employees’ lives. As a result, I knelt down and started praying like never before. Thereon I started praying and wishing that I can create a company and bring a company culture from our roots to improve people’s lives
- What is your biggest inspiration?
To be frank and this is no longer a secret. I find inspiration in our culture and history. I am fascinated with rich stories that give meaning to our history. It is derived from a story about Omar (may Allah be pleased with him), the foundation of humility. Whenever I am in need of inspiration I go back to our history and always find what I am seeking. I am fascinated with the stories in our history, like the destruction of the giants of AD, the prophet and Al Sahaba, ALKhoulafaa AL Rashidin and their story, one of our chambers and we have ten, these ten chambers are our way of work and life in Jannah is derived from a story about Omar AS and is called the foundation of humility.
- What is your favourite Hadith and why?
I don’t have a specific favourite one, they are all my favourites. I live by them and I read them over and over again. Especially, when I need to clear my mind, take the next step, or find a new strategy. I enjoy reading them imagining the surroundings and the life moments of when they were actually occurring.
- Why did you decide to call your business Jannah?
My mother influenced me to make that decision. As a young worker, I was intrigued by the hospitality, comfort and just about everything when it came to hotels. When I went back to our humble home in Beirut, I use to sit next to my mum while my eyes widen as I described everything I saw. One day she said to me, ‘if you are impressed by what man has built, wait until you see Jannah, it’s better than any hotel you have ever seen.’ She ended the conversation by reading a verse from SurahAl Waqi’ah where you have a description of Jannah. This was the crucial moment when I decided that if I have my own hotel, I would call it nothing but Jannah. From a business perspective, we are an alcohol-free chain and our own corporate culture is derived from Islamic teachings which makes it natural for us to call it Jannah.
- How did you come up with the logo?
The logo is actually a quite exciting story. When we were setting up the company, we worked with a superb marketing agency. As a matter of fact, many of them. We even worked with an old jewellery designer as well as a famous artist. Unfortunately, none of them came up with something I could relate to. I did not want the logo of Jannah Hotels and Resorts to be anything that I am not 100 percent sure about. One night before I went to sleep, I prayed asking Allah to reassure my plan and to give me some sort of sign to help me with the logo.
The dream was of an old friend of mine, a Bedouin, who taught me the ways of the desert. He was planting an olive tree in the middle of the desert in Liwa. I ran to him and screamed, ‘Abu Matar, Abu Matar, what are you doing? This olive tree will die, we do not have water here.’ He replied, ‘Nehme, zoom in.’ I thrusted my body forward in to the tree to see that this olive tree did not only carry olives but also turquoise stones. Behind me, my Bedouin friend Abu Matar was saying, ‘Nehme, this is not a normal olive tree, this is a blessed tree, and it will bring you water’. He then asked, ‘Do you want more?’ I said ‘yes please, one in Jordan, one in Lebanon, one in UK, etc.’
I woke up really early that day and I hurried to the office which is in the same building where I lived. I started googling real olive trees until I found the one I saw in my dream. We sent it to the graphic designer and asked her to colour our tree with the honey colour as described in Jannah. “A river of honey will flow”, we then looked for turquoise stones and we put them on the tree. Under the tree we added a shade to signify Zilon Mamdoud as mentioned in Surah Al Waqi’ah
- What is your vision for Jannah?
Jannah is a first class company serving first class and only hiring first class talents. We will take our corporate culture around the world Insha’Allah.
- What does Halal Travel mean?
It means that there is a number of people living in this world that share one belief, and would like to travel like everyone else exploring the world without deviating from the culture, belief and our way of life.
Every country has an embassy. Similarly, I want Jannah to be the embassy for Halal travellers worldwide.
- What can your guests expect to experience when they stay at Jannah?
They can immediately feel a culture connection through names and ways of doing things. For example, the simple thing is that we always have three elevators in our hotel with the following name Al Ihsan, Al Mizan, and Al Daif which are some of our values as well. You will get to enjoy the Karim Services, our own signature butler service. Karim means generous and that is symbolic to the generosity of the noble Bedouins, whom when he has nothing, would still serve his guests food leaving him to eat as much as his guests wanted.
- What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs?
Al Ihsan, is the highest level of entrepreneurship, study it and derive your strategy from it, as well as contemplate about the 99 names of Allah.