Mohamed Faisal Mostafa Reflects on Growing up in Dubai, Business, Football and Acting

Lindsay Judge   |   03-10-2023


Growing up in the UAE, Mohamed Faisal Mostafa had dreams of becoming a professional footballer from a young age. Born to an Emirati father and English mother, his mixed heritage gave him the best of both worlds with a happy childhood in Dubai and many summers spent in the United Kingdom, which further encouraged his passion for football.


Mostafa came close to achieving success as a professional footballer but after realising the challenges of making it big in the sporting world and suffering from injuries, he started to look to other passions. He had always been close to his older brother Ali, (Emirati filmmaker and former A&E cover star), and was often the subject of Ali’s films growing up, being taught how to act by his sibling from a young age. He realised that acting was something he was also passionate about and has pursued this on the side ever since, most recently starring in Apple TV+ series Hijack alongside Idris Elba. Another dream of Mostafa’s has always been to join the family business, one that he has fulfilled over the last few years. Of course, it has not always been a smooth journey, Mostafa has faced many challenges along the way and is the first to admit he is not perfect. But today, he sees many paths ahead of him and many directions for his life. Here, we find out more.


Mohamed wears ZEGNA Winter 2023 Collection


What are some of your fondest memories growing up in the UAE?

When I was growing up in Dubai, it was much more intimate – you would know everyone in your neighbourhood – it was much more family orientated. So I think my fondest memories were around this, playing with the kids in the neighbourhood and going to friend’s houses.


Tell us more about your childhood – where you hung out what you were into etc.

I spent a lot of time at Al Wasl Football Club, firstly playing tennis before moving on to football, so that’s a place that’s been part of my life for a very long time. If I wasn’t there playing sports I would be at friends’ houses or playing football on the streets in my neighbourhood. And then, every summer, we would travel to London and Ireland, and I have very fond memories of that.


Mohamed wears ZEGNA Winter 2023 Collection


How do you think having a mixed heritage of British and Emirati has helped shape you as a person?

I experienced discrimination to a certain level because I was Arab, but at the same time, not Arab. In school, there were times when people would make comments about my heritage, but I believe it was my responsibility to show people that it didn’t matter. When I started playing football, I experienced something similar because I was half British – then, as soon as they saw me play, there were no more comments!

I am named after my grandfather and, most importantly, named after Prophet Mohammed and I think especially today, we have a responsibility as Arabs and as Muslims who carry this name to show what it represents. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I never hide away from my name, and I’m proud to show people who I am, and I do think some of the discrimination I received when I was younger helped me to appreciate who I am today.


We know you were into football when you were young – tell us about this and your experience of playing.

I’ve always been into sports – tennis, martial arts, basketball – but then I started to play football, and I was really good with my hands, so naturally I became a goalkeeper. From then on, it became my dream. I went to every camp you could imagine in Dubai and then in London, I would often be awarded with player of the week. When I turned 13, I went to join Al Wasl Football Club, and I played every day for about seven years. Every summer, I would travel to London and have trials with various teams. I always had issues with my height because in England, they are very strict with the height of goalkeepers. I got to a stage where I started to think football might not work out as a career so I decided to open my first business with my best friends when I was 20. I always kept football in my life but not in such a serious way; then at 27 I had this feeling that I wanted to play again. I started reading a book called “The Key to Living and Law of Attraction”, and I started working really hard to get back into the game. I travelled to Tenerife and hired my own goalkeeper coach, I trained for five hours a day. Then I came to Dubai, and I ended up signing for Al Ain, one of the best clubes in Asia.. I signed my first professional contract at 27 years old. It was incredible, but it didn’t last too long. I think I used to be a bit naïve when it came to football. It’s not just about playing well, it’s a business. You need the right relationships and connections, and I wasn’t really focused on that. I also fractured my head two times and had a bad concussion, so I realised it was time to stop. I do miss it, and I have been offered to play again, but as much as I’m tempted, I have to put it behind me.


Mohamed wears ZEGNA Winter 2023 Collection


Tell us about your entrepreneurship and business career.

When I was 20 years old, I opened my first business, which was a gym in Dubai. Our concept was that we wanted people to leave their ego at the door and come in with the right intentions. We wanted to separate vanity from fitness. We closed it after four years to pursue other projects, but I learned a lot from the experience. As an entrepreneur, I always take accountability for my mistakes, and I think you have to make mistakes in order to learn from them.

After University in London, I worked for a private equity firm based in Mayfair in The United Kingdom, focusing on tech investments, something I am quite fascinated about. I then moved back to Dubai and opened my own business in this sector. It focuses on digital transformation and IT services – I wanted to add value to the start-up community, helping small businesses to transform.

My dream was always to work at our family company and to continue the family legacy that my grandfather first built. So after three years of my company, Versatile Synergy, it was the right time, and I started helping with the family business around digital transformation, and then they offered me a job within the family business which is what I continue to do today. It’s an honour to be working as part of the business and being part of the legacy that my great-grandfather built.


Tell us a little about the history of the family business.

My great-grandfather founded Mostafa Bin Abdullatif Investments in 1924, starting with pearl trading. Today we work between the UAE and Bahrain, and we work in real estate development, distribution and investments. We have a very diverse portfolio of clients. We also have a services and manufacturing sector, a signage company and a film production company. And then have our family office, focusing on PE and VC investments. On the private equity side, in our technology investments, we co-invest with Green Sands Equity, a Silicon Valley-based company. Here we invest in impact investments in technology, and after building a relationship with Green Sands, they have appointed me to be their director of investor relations within the Middle East. On our venture capital side, I have been set up to focus on investing in ventures of the future generations of family members.

I have also just set up a new business called The Element with a friend of mine. It is a fitness and yoga business, that focuses on anything that serves your mind and body in the right way.


Mohamed wears ZEGNA Winter 2023 Collection


Tell us about your journey into acting.

Ever since I can remember, I was acting in my brother’s movies. He taught me how to act – I never went to drama school – but his dream was to be a director, and he needed someone to practice with, and that’s where I came in. So I think because I practised so much growing up, it became natural for me, and it’s something I enjoy. Of course, I never enjoyed it as much as football, that was my dream, but it’s something I have always been interested in. When I stopped playing football I had the opportunity to star in another movie that Ali was directing called “The Worthy”, and this is when I realised I could still act and that I enjoyed it. So I started to consider taking it seriously, and a few roles began to come up. I realised that acting really makes me feel in my element, much like when I used to be on the football field, so I hired an agent and started to take it seriously.


Tell us about your most recent role in “Hijack”.

After hiring an agent, this was the first role I auditioned for. And it was incredible. With everything I do in life I try to relate it back to the UAE, and I feel there is so much room for growth for the film industry in the UAE and we have immense talent here. The more we try to push this, the more it will draw attention to the industry here. There are a few things happening now, both on the acting and production sides, and I’m really optimistic about it.

Talking specifically about Hijack, it was a great experience. I knew that it was going to be big as it was being made for Apple TV+, but initially, I didn’t really ingest it until I got to set and really saw the scale. I did at first question my ability because I didn’t have as much experience as everyone that was working on this project – you have people from Peaky Blinders, and Hollywood movies – it was quite intense, but honestly, the whole production from top to bottom treated me like an equal. Very quickly I felt worthy of being there, and I really enjoyed the experience. The more I experienced being on set the more I started to think that this idea of becoming an international Emirati actor was one that could possibly become reality.


Mohamed wears ZEGNA Winter 2023 Collection


You’re a man of many talents – we know you are also a keen yoga instructor – how did this come about?

About three years ago, I fell into depression. At the time, I was pointing fingers, but I would say now that it was an accumulation of my own behaviour. I’ve done things in my life that I’m proud of but also things that I’m not proud of and I think it’s essential to speak up about these things and be honest about the fact that we aren’t perfect and it’s OK if we mess up. So I was in this dark place, and I ended up turning to yoga as a form of initially exercising, and it became a method of therapy. The more I did it, the more I was taken into the light, and it made me learn so much about myself and my faith. Yes, I still have flaws that I need to work on, but I take full accountability for things that I have done wrong, and I’m working every day to be better.

I decided I wanted to become a yoga teacher because I wanted to give the same value that yoga had given me to others. So I flew to Thailand and did my yoga teacher training, and I had the best experience of my life. In my practical exam, I was asked to base my class on a theme. I chose tolerance because of its connection to the UAE. I have always written songs and poems and I decided to write a poem on tolerance for this. I wanted to bring together all people of different backgrounds and beliefs, so I asked everyone to say a prayer in their own way at the beginning of the class, and I still do that in my classes today. Today I structure my classes similarly. My class is called the Journey Flow, because we’re all on our own journeys in life, but we all have qualities we can work on to live a more peaceful, happy life. For example, being more present, forgiving, grateful – the list goes on. So every class is based on a theme, which will be one of these qualities that we all share, and every theme has a poem written by me, dedicated to that theme/quality, for us to absorb and better the qualities we share in our own personal journeys. Yoga is not for everyone of course but it has something that has helped me a lot and I think can help a lot of others. I am by no means saying that yoga has fixed me or that I’m perfect, I’m still a work in progress, and I’m fine-tuning myself to be better day by day, if yoga is a tool that can help me with that, then I am grateful.


Where would you like to see yourself in ten years?

Since we touched on personal growth, I would like to know for sure that I have grown immensely in the areas where I needed growth. Hopefully, in ten years, I will be content, healthy and at peace. I would like to be a father and a husband. I hope that I’ll be in a position where I can be a bit more philanthropic and invest back into charities and causes. I hope that I substantially grow and add value to the family company. And of course, on the film side, keep shooting and keep growing the film industry in the UAE.


Mohamed wears ZEGNA Winter 2023 Collection


What is a message you would tell your younger self?

When you’re going through an obstacle, know that it will pass. Life is a cycle of ups and downs and you have to appreciate the downs as much as the ups. I would also tell myself now and today that people’s opinion of you does not define you, and lastly, you are your own and only artist, so make that canvas as beautiful as you are, because you are always beautiful, whatever part of that journey you are on.


What is the motto that you live by?

This is a difficult one because I feel that as you evolve and change, your mottos change. But I would make it very simple and say; be kind, be loving, be gentle with yourself and others and take accountability for your actions. You never know when it’s your last moment on earth, so always be ready to apologise and forgive.


Tell us a little about your style.

I like to dress smart and subtly. I like colour, but I’m usually in my gym gear, my kandura or a shirt and blazer.


What else is in the pipeline for the rest of the year?

Film-wise, I’m working on a couple of things that I can’t discuss yet. There is potential for me to get into producing, which is very exciting. Business-wise, we are now launching Element, and at Versatile Synergy, we are becoming a transformation platform to assist start-ups in the region with digital transformation.



Photographer: Ziga Mihelcic

Styling, Direction and Words: Lindsay Judge

Grooming: Amanda Kay

With thanks to Al Wasl Club, Dubai