As the Year of Zayed goes on, and the more I hear people talk about him and about his stature, the more I wish I had seen him or met him. It’s incredible for an Emirati to encounter the mountains of praise he has been receiving in the last few months, not just from people in the UAE but from around the world. It seems everyone knows and understands his great achievements and his good deeds, whether it was helping the poor, welcoming people from every country or providing a nation in which everyone can live comfortably. This was his vision and it’s clear that Sheikh Zayed set an example for everyone.
Of course, the greatest of all his accomplishments is the founding of the United Arab Emirates. This country was all desert when it was first united, yet Sheikh Zayed started projects in all fields and sectors; he built schools and universities and he played a pivotal role in the establishment and the growth of the country’s economy, from shipping to aviation and manufacturing and construction.
The UAE’s ongoing generosity is very much based on Sheikh Zayed’s humanitarian vision.
His efforts were never solely restricted to the country but rather they extended far and beyond – from Egypt to Pakistan and many other places. No one, for instance, is surprised to see Egyptian communities and towns carrying his name. In Yemen, he restored the Great Marib Dam, first built 3,000 years ago; he reconstructed it because it was always a historical symbol for the Arabs. The UAE provided the funds to end centuries of flooding and to bring it back to life. All the countries of the world that have suffered from natural disasters have seen the assistance of Sheikh Zayed.
He was also a pioneer in helping the poor around the region, whether it was sheltering them, delivering healthcare or providing support. Even today, when I travel to other countries I notice Sheikh Zayed’s name mentioned by the people. He is still remembered and known by everyone, educated and uneducated.
Sheikh Zayed was passionate about our heritage. In many senses, though, he helped redefine it. His focus on the economy, the development of our oil resources and the ports was always done as a means of elevating the lives of everyone here. He provided education and housing and, in all respects, a much higher standard of living for his people.
It’s clear that he set the path that today’s rulers of the Emirates have followed. There is a popular saying here that your posterity will survive with your offspring and, of course, his children are now among the rulers of the UAE, continuing his legacy. For them all, Sheikh Zayed was the ideal role model to learn from.
Indeed, he was known as the wise man of Arabs. He would simplify conflicts and unify tribes. His lesson was always that strength comes from unity, and that unity means more than simply the federation of emirates – but rather the realisation that the UAE must be a place all people, whether citizens or residents, continue to work to improve and cherish.
It is, in my opinion, why it remains one of the most successful nations in the region – and beyond.
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