By Ali Abdallah Al Sharif
Among his many achievements, the desire to promote unity among all people will perhaps be the most lasting, writes Ali Abdallah Al Sharif, Member of the cultural and scientific association, Dubai
The sheikhs of the UAE have declared 2018, the year that marks 100 years since the birth of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE who passed away in 2004, as the Year of Zayed. But as citizens and expatriates living in the state, the memory of our late founder is always with us, and will live as long as we are alive.
Sheikh Zayed has a place in the hearts of young emirates as dear as the adults, like me, who grew up under his leadership. This is due to the stories and the anecdotes they hear from their fathers and grandfathers, stories that everyone shares and passes on about his life and achievements. With what we always hear about Sheikh Zayed, everyone feels his presence, and it’s for this reason that people love him posthumously.
It was the dream of every citizen and resident to meet Sheikh Zayed and I would watch and listen to every TV appearance and interview with him. Those who worked with him would often tell us that what we have seen is only a small part of what he did and we keep learning new things until today.
In terms of his achievements, there are almost too many to think about. One of the major ones was the transformation of the environment of the Emirates, where he initiated a change from desert to greenery – imagine, he was able to conquer the desert. Another is the status of women in the UAE. He also promoted tolerance generally, and wanted to develop a society that was happy and fulfilled.
His main contribution, of course, remains the establishment of the UAE. In Egypt, when they learn that we are Emiratis, they call us the “sons of Zayed”. Sheikh Zayed was a capable mediator with a capacity to respond to everything, and he could win over even those who were perhaps better educated than him. But he always promoted respect between people, and this is what the success of the UAE is built on. If you go back to the old movies and pictures, you will find everything is linked to tolerance, especially the removal of the rivalries among the tribes. Tolerance and peace were the most important things for him.
He didn’t limit his gifts to the people of the UAE, either. I heard from an elderly person that even when he went to another country and saw some young patients being treated in hospitals, he would ensure to take up the costs of the treatment for them all. One foreign observer asked him how he could give them all this, and Sheikh Zayed responded that if you had children, you would not spare any expense to help them and those he saw were as dear to him as his own children.
Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was the role model for us all. And now, the sheikhs of the Emirates, either directly or indirectly, all follow Sheikh Zayed’s approach. All of his achievements affect me. All his achievements are valuable, I cannot exemplify them in one or two achievements, they are in the hundreds and all continue to have a big impact on the UAE.
Tribute by Ali Abdallah Al Sharif, Member of the cultural and scientific association, Dubai