Sheikh Zayed led by example. He had high ambitions for the country and his vision for it was always much greater than anyone else’s. He was generous, humble and supportive of all of the emirates – and it was these qualities, in addition to plenty of compromise, that enabled him to bring everyone together to form the new nation. He showed that in unity we are stronger.
Today, if you ask anyone in the UAE, how it would be without this unity that we all share now? No one could imagine it. His vision and his leadership really was for the benefit of the whole nation.
People who have seen Sheikh Zayed can tell you a lot about him, can share stories and pass on their recollections. But even those who have never met him can see his accomplishments all around them. The new generation might never have seen or heard directly from Sheikh Zayed, but if you ask them about him, they can describe him with real accuracy and insight just based on what they have seen him achieve.
My father had lived in the era of Sheikh Zayed, a time when the country was still building itself. Sheikh Zayed was a very active person, an early riser who would spend the whole day travelling around the country, exploring every corner and meeting people to make sure everything is going according to plan. He was not an artificial person, he was very much an open, real person and whatever was in his heart he put out there.
I think this approach influenced my father very much and we have tried to implement this openness in our business. Our offices are always open; if anybody wants to meet us, they can just come and present themselves. This is exactly what we have learnt from Sheikh Zayed.
Sheikh Zayed built the infrastructure for us all to flourish. He encouraged private business to develop the country, to build houses, offices, shops and attractions by offering them the land on which to do it. Sheikh Zayed was effectively asking people to start and run their own businesses, and the infrastructure needs of the country were some of the prime opportunities that were being presented.
Education was also another area in which Sheikh Zayed invested a lot, especially in the early days. In fact, I was one of the lucky students who got a scholarship from the government to study abroad. Sheikh Zayed was always outspoken about education, it was something he talked about a lot. He said, “Education is like the sand dunes: the more you take from it, the more it starts falling on you”. I personally reflect on this a lot; how could someone describe education any more simply than that?
Sheikh Zayed passed away many years ago but up until today everybody here is called “Eyal Zayed” – the sons of Zayed. Wherever we travel in the Gulf region we are called that and it’s something everybody is proud of, especially as it links the rulers of today to his vision and their attempts to follow it. In many ways, I’d say we are still living In Sheikh Zayed’s time.
There remains a genuine love of Sheikh Zayed, and that is based on his way of treating the people. What he wanted for his people was genuine, you could see it from what he has done to the country.
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