1975 President Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan in discussion with project engineers for the construction of Maqta bridge.
1978 Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan
The UAE is safe. The UAE is peaceful. The UAE is clean. The UAE is prosperous. The UAE is educated. The UAE is home to thriving cities.
The United Arab Emirates exists the way that it does today, because of one man: Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, an international insignia of dignity and tolerance.2018 marks 100 years since Shaikh Zayed was born. Abu Dhabi was his birthplace, Al Ain was his home and a United Arab Emirates was his goal. The founding father was persistent and kind. He was imaginative and generous. Citizens of the UAE, saw Shaikh Zayed as more than their country’s leader. They saw him as a father. He was a father and the UAE citizens were all his children. Together, they lived under one unified roof. He was a father who celebrated his people's weddings, he would mourn at funerals and he would visit the ill in their homes to comfort them. His goals were not only to build a thriving metropolis, but to nurture a sense of self-belief among his citizens. To empower women, to educate children and to create a clean and green environment for all of us to live in.
He ruled the UAE for 33 years, provided a leadership with vision and foresight. He followed his instincts and ruled with fairness and with heart. We ventured to Al Ain. A place Zayed called home. Throughout his life, Shaikh Zayed knew many people from all over the world, but those closest to him resided in Al Ain, a peaceful region in the Abu Dhabi Emirate. We sat down with a few of the men, who were close to the late UAE president.
We spoke with his former personal photographer Falah Al Kubaisi, who revealed untold stories that emphasized Zayed’s kind heart, compassion and generosity to those in need. He told us about how Shaikh Zayed stopped by the side of the road, as he noticed three young men struggling to pick dates from a high palm tree. While other people drove by and continued on their journeys, his concern for the well-being of these three labourers caused him to stop, help them and finally order the Minister of Agriculture to start planting short, date yielding palms, so that no one could get hurt if they were hungry and seeking sustenance.
Al Kubaisi also showed us around his majlis pointing out rare and unpublished photographs of the late Shaikh Zayed and other UAE rulers. His favourite photo was one of him looking much younger, chatting with Shaikh Zayed as they walked down a hallway with red carpets. He opened up an old suitcase and showed us hundreds of old press badges that he collected throughout the years, as he followed Zayed all over the world to photograph his official appearances. "They always like the way I photographed him, so I was invited to accompany them on press trips". Falah retired five years after Shaikh Zayed passed away.
To get a more insightful view on the history of the UAE, we sat down with famed Emirati historian and writer Hamdan Al Darei, who explained that if the discovery of oil had ended up in the wrong hands, the UAE may not have been anything like it is today. He explained that Zayed’s strong personality, powerful instincts and the courage to do the right thing, were the reasons, he was able to adapt to the subsequent changes taking place in society, and mould the nation into what it is today.
We met Mohammad Al Shamsi, by one of the local Mosques in Al Ain. He was a close friend of the ruling family and even travelled with Zayed to India in the 1950s. He elaborated on the late Shaikh Zayed’s goodness, compassion and humanitarianism with his people here and around the world.
When the British announced their withdrawal plans from the Gulf in 1968, Shaikh Zayed called for the formation of a union between the different emirates. Resolutely he continued pursuing this call with determination because he firmly believed only such unity would protect the emirates’ existence following the withdrawal.
Some were apprehensive about the survival of the federation, if ever established, beyond its first year.
1981 The founding summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council was held in Abu Dhabi on May 7, 1981, hosted by Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi.
Yet to the surprise of sceptics, the UAE federation went on to become one of the prime examples of unity and brotherhood that has stood the test of time. Among the UAE’s remarkable achievements is the respect it commands in regional and world affairs because of Shaikh Zayed’s ability to make his fellow Arabs see the bigger picture.
Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Shaikh Rashid with rulers of Emirates at the hoisting of UAE flag on December 1971.
Shaikh Zayed’s philosophy of brotherhood extended to the Arab world. He believed Arab unity could only be achieved if differences were put aside and divisions were overcome. His ardent belief in these two factors saw him play the mediator’s role on a number of occasions.
To Shaikh Zayed’s eternal credit, the UAE became a respected voice on the world stage even though it was still a very young nation. History will count Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan among the great nation-builders of all time.
Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan receives greeting from kids during visit ot Liwa.
Thanks to Shaikh Zayed’s untiring efforts, a considerable part of the desert has been made productive. Many in the world consider the UAE to be an arid country but the truth here is different. Traditional agriculture, involving the cultivation and export of dates has been practised for years. Thankfully, underground water has always been a major source of sustenance for this activity. Later, with the discovery of oil, the country adapted an aggressive plan for the greening of the land.
There are certain areas in the UAE specialising in agricultural products. These are Al Ain, Al Dhaid and Ras Al Khaimah. More than 600,000 tons of fresh vegetables including lettuce, cabbage, cucumber and tomatoes are produced each season.
The government has followed a policy of supporting farmers as an incentive for implementing its plan of a green land. A number of farmers have been allotted land, seeds, equipment and machinery, as well as advice on pest control.
More than 18 million palm trees were planted under a beautification campaign all over the UAE. This was in addition to the more than 10 million trees lining various streets and highways of the emirates. Earlier, in 1977, the cultivated land had accounted for only 15,050 hectares but by the mid-90s, the number reached 54,500 hectares.
Meanwhile, long patches of green were created in the desert. Al Jurf, located 100km northeast of Abu Dhabi, stands witness to such efforts. More than a million-and-a-half palm trees, covering an area of 8,000 hectares, were also planted.
“Many years ago, scientists told us that it was not possible to develop agriculture in this land of ours. We told them that we would try and that if Almighty Allah so willed, with determination, we would succeed. We have proved the scientists wrong and the results are now visible all around us,” Shaikh Zayed once said.
Agricultural research too formed a part of the green drive. Such research has been able to successfully create plants that can survive the country’s harsh weather and the saline groundwater as part of the Shaikh Zayed International Project for Agricultural and Environmental research. Experimental farms were also set up in Kalba, Dhaid and Al Ain.
Besides dates, greenhouse products like citrus fruits, potatoes, celery, mangoes, melons and papayas are also grown. In the early 1990s, agricultural output was estimated at a value of Dh2.5 billion. Fresh products are sold mainly in the local market, while the surplus is exported to Western countries.