By Ismail Al Hammadi
His reputation stands as a great leader and a splendid example for us all
Growing up in the UAE and witnessing the great transformation of this nation from tribal to a 21st century country embracing cultural and economic diversity, I can barely find the right words to express the fondness that I feel for our “founding father”. Whatever we have achieved today as a country and as individuals, we owe to him. For me, his name is synonymous with confidence, safety, promise, hope and greatness.
I remember that as a child and a young man, every person that I knew, including myself, was striving to emulate and mirror Sheikh Zayed’s example. It was an image so pure that it continues to thrive to this day, motivating us to keep going, keep building, keep chasing our dreams and not take no for an answer.
Sheikh Zayed’s legacy is timeless and very difficult to quantify. His compassion and humanitarianism has extended beyond the UAE’s borders, and 25 years on from the establishment of Zayed Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, we see traces of his goodwill in more than 100 countries that have benefitted from schools, hospitals, universities and houses. Just like His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates pointed out, all the virtues we boast today – charity, literacy, tolerance, equality, education, economy and infrastructure – are all legacies of Sheikh Zayed.
The UAE is widely recognised as a modern state that has been built from scratch under a single vision: the one of Sheikh Zayed, who set the foundations of a prosperous, progressive and advanced society. His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai said Sheikh Zayed has instilled in us the willpower and determination to achieve the impossible.
Sheikh Zayed was known as the “wise man of the Arabs”, a nickname he gained for understanding that unity was instrumental to the country’s collective success. After the withdrawal of the British from the region, Sheikh Zayed knew that solidarity among the emirates was the only way forward. Blessed with great purposefulness, he saw what others couldn’t, and his sense for unity and equality made him unforgettable among his people.
Sheikh Zayed is rightly singled out as one of the most iconic figures in the region’s history due to his countless achievements. From building houses, schools, health services, the airport and the seaports, roads and bridges, to his investment in people, empowering Emirati women to attain their full potential and his assistance to those in need of help, Sheikh Zayed brought forth the very best in this nation.
Sheikh Zayed was not only the ruler of Abu Dhabi, but the president of a country and all the modern development still carries the blueprint of his vision. The world has changed a lot in the last half century; however, the five-year plan that His Highness put into action in 1966 retains its core principles today based on sustainable growth and ambitious outcomes.
In conclusion, we don’t need to make an effort to remember Sheikh Zayed, as we can feel his presence in the very modern lifestyle which we live today.
None of this would have been possible without his contribution, as he quite literally turned nothing into everything.