Hasan El-Hariri has been fascinated by space for all his life. He bought his first telescope when he was 16 and, after using it to look at the moon, he was hooked on astronomy. This love drove him to start the Dubai Astronomy Group in 1993 and, since then, it has grown from a handful of people to some 3,000 members. Now, El-Hariri dreams of inspiring young children to look at the sky and find that same fascination that drove his whole life.
Catch my short interview with El-Hariri below, where he talks about his work and the Dubai Astronomy Group, and his hopes for the future of the group. Below that you can watch an interesting short documentary about El-Hariri and his work.
1) Why did you decide to start the Dubai Astronomy Group (DAG) and when did it start?
Astronomy is a collaborative science. You cannot work alone. To increase our knowledge we have to cooperate and unify ourselves into an organized entity. We also found that there is no organization available in the United Arab Emirates or other Arab countries that is serving astronomy in any way which satisfies our needs.
Not to mention that most of the astronomy organizations around the world are local oriented and do not often support each other in a progressive manner.
2) How successful have you been so far in inspiring young children to look at the stars and be interested in astronomy?
We have many activities, over 30 every year, most of which address schools and the education sector. We are seeing so many children joining DAG with their families, and most of our general activities are family-oriented. We have also started an astronomy club in schools initiative in 2006. We now have many schools working closely with us as partners.
We are active partners of Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) [the educational quality assurance and regulatory authority of Dubai], and provide many products to schools, such as stargazing events, lectures and galleries.
We are planning to open an Astronomy Kids Clubs soon, which will provide more focused products and services for children.
3) Do you have any plans of spreading DAG across the UAE and maybe, in the future, link up with other groups in other Arab countries to have a regional Arab Astronomy Group?
DAG is named after Dubai due to our struggling start, but we are definitely not restricted to Dubai. We are available everywhere in UAE, not to mention we have many friends and partners around the world and in Arab countries.
We are now starting to work on an International Astronomy Group, where we will link up networks of astronomy clubs and group around the world, and we are inviting everyone to join us in this effort. We believe that, together, we can do miracles.
4) The DAG members have increased from four to 3,000 over the past 20 years. What do you plan to do next?
Our target is to have one million members by 2015. It is a very big number but it’s only a start. We have an aggressive marketing plan, which will support our international vision very strongly. We hope to become a world leading astronomy organization, which can support amateur astronomers and fulfill their dreams.