Twin Feline-Loving Sisters of Abu Dhabi

Cat-Women on a mission to feed our purring comrades!

On a Caturday evening, as I strolled determinedly along the Corniche walkway, I paused for a bit as I usually did — to silently observe the mysterious cat lady as she patiently laid down thinly cut pieces of meat for a posse of street cats . I had become so accustomed to the sight of her feeding the abundant population of Abu Dhabi’s stray felines that it had come to be the most commonplace occurrence during my evening walks and yet — the sight of her never failed to move me. Here was someone who had espoused the ideal of pure empathy, of unrelenting and unconditional love for animal- kind. This was purr-fect love! This time around, I mustered the courage to approach her and tell her how deeply moved I was by her routine. So I did — and her response was befitting of the beautiful human-being she is. Without the slightest bit of hesitation, she asked that I jot down her number and call her should I find myself in need of any kind of help. I conveyed my thanks and she hurried away to feed the next gathering of cats waiting for her expectantly.

I eventually did get in touch with her with a request to let me write about her efforts, because such acts of kindness are incredibly rare today.

Ghina Saemdahr and Hana Saemdahr are sisters from Aleppo, Syria twinning their way towards keeping outcast cats in Abu Dhabi well fed. They look alike and one can’t easily tell them apart! Together they make sure that Abu Dhabi’s stray cats don’t starve or go thirsty. Theirs is a sustained and organized effort and is not some sudden burst of charity. Every single evening, for the past 10 years, they’ve taken turns to feed 65+ cats along the Abu Dhabi Corniche and continue to do so unfailingly. In the extremes of UAE’s heat, cats and kittens are never left exposed or unattended to. They’ve found a reliable savior in the Saemdahr sisters who are ‘Cat-Women’ in their own right.

Ghina and Hana Saemdahr at Lake Park, Corniche

While most of us do occasionally pass tiny treats to strays, none of us do it regularly enough. This leaves these fur-balls at odds with the elements and at the risk of starvation. Ghina and Hana Saemdahr have changed all of that, by implementing a neat and organized system of feeding strays. As they go about their daily routine, they make it a point to count the cats and make sure that every cat is accounted for. This means that should a cat be taken ill or is injured, they are immediately alerted about it and are able to effectively cater to its needs. On a daily basis, Ghina and Hana Saemdahr are greeted, at every park lining the Abu Dhabi Corniche, by a throng of cats that gather around almost immediately at the sight of them. They gently nudge against their knees and purr contentedly. It is a wonderful sight to witness!

I find it all too saddening that while most people crave the love and attention of animals, very few want to put in the efforts to win them over. Caring for a pet is a lifetime contract. One is obligated to see it through its entire life-cycle, through thick and thin. Some people who grow bored and uninterested of their pets with age, actually kick them out without any forethought. This is the horrifying truth. This is problematic because the pet has nowhere do go and is forced to acclimatize to the harsh outdoors environment. The Saemdahr sisters have brought home back to pets who’ve lost one! They’ve taken it upon themselves to ensure that strays get all the love they deserve for the wonderful creatures that they are.

It’s tedious work. It’s also very expensive to feed 65+ cats everyday. But there is something infinitely more rewarding that the Saemdahr sisters have gained from being empathetic. Something that money can never buy. Quite simply put — it’s happiness. Unfiltered, pure and purr-fect bliss! It is the ‘spirit of giving’, a hallmark of humanity.

(All pictures reproduced with prior permission of Ms. Ghina Saemdahr)

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