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“Proud to be Emirati”

/ 14 September 2012

Guinness World Record-holder and collector Suhail Al Zarooni on what the UAE means to him

Whenever I travel or chat with familiar business people and friends who are abroad, they have substantial opinions and 
insights to share about cities within 
the UAE.

Usually, their opinions centre on Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which most of them have visited or read about in a recent news article that’s caught their attention. I advise them that for a nation that is blessed with founding fathers like the late His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and the late His Highness Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the UAE truly is a success unlike any other.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi, in 
particular, are always on the radar, especially for opportunities for Emirati talent and the mix of nationalities flown in by home-grown names like Air Arabia, Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airlines. Business friends of mine are continually making their way here, booking accommodation at one of the beautiful hotels and beachfront resorts, in time for the Emirates Literature Festival, Abu Dhabi Film Festival, the Dubai International Film festival, Art Dubai, Liwa Date Festival, Arabian Travel Market, Dubai Shopping Festival, Dubai Summer Surprises, fashion shows, charity dinners, sports events, air shows, yacht shows and motor shows held annually. We have a gold star for hosting the crème-de-la-crème from the world of gastronomy, an exciting line-up of concerts, events and performances. The media are thoroughly busy keeping up with all the activity. It was a grand feeling to see the Arab Media Forum soaring high in its 11th year.

There was a time when I would receive a personal invitation to travel to countries like Germany to attend the annual Frankfurt Motor Show. Now, we have our own world-class shows that launch everything from the latest to the finest.

Apart from the opinions I’ve 
gotten used to hearing about the magnificent Burj Khalifa, life after the US$20 million launch of Atlantis at The Palm, the graceful rides inside a Dubai Metro, which I personally enjoy taking, and the variety of shopping, dining and leisure spots, either inland or towards the rocky mountains, people express that they are in awe of this wonderland in the desert.

For this, I am immensely proud and my heart fills up with reverence for the founding fathers of our nation. It is they who have shared their wealth and generosity with the Emirati families by giving us plenty of land and opportunity. These virtues are what I intensely admire about our wonderful 
nation. Everytime I view the large poster of the late Sheikh Zayed 
Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, which is close to my home in Jumeirah, I am filled with personal pride and immense gratitude, like many of my compatriots.

This is the knowledge and 
perspective that resonates with most people that we are, after all, in a desert, some 2,800km from the equator. Given that we jumped into the game in 1972, the progress is phenomenal. On the 40th anniversary of the UAE National Day, I went to Armani’s first hotel at the Burj Khalifa for coffee at the lounge. It’s great 
to know that internationally 
renowned brands are proud to partner with the UAE.

For speed-lovers everywhere, Ferrari World at Yas Island, situated midway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, has painted the town in their signature red. While I am yet to take a trip to the top of the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, that soars 2,723 feet into the sky, I am a big fan of the record-setting choreographed fountain system set on the 30-acre manmade Burj Khalifa Lake below. The magical dancing fountains, which Tom Cruise can be seen leaping into in MI:4, remind me of the one in front of Bellagio Hotel in Ocean’s Eleven. A slice of Hollywood in our own Downtown.

It’s clear that we have created a new lifestyle that can sustain the rapid evolution of modernity, with social media leading the way. Our youth, in particular, love to tweet and I like that they do so in English and in Arabic — a language I 
believe represents hospitality.

It’s no wonder that exemplary standards and seven star services for eminent guests visiting properties like the Emirates Palace in 
Abu Dhabi and the Burj Al Arab in Dubai are a benchmark of our 
hospitality and prowess. It is an 
exalted version that is inspired by our love for a hospitable majlis and the grand feeling it brings to the host and guests. The most succulent dates, sometimes leafed in gold, will be served with refreshing   qawwah poured from a traditional coffee pot or  dallah. It is embossed onto the 1 Dirham coin — a symbol of our dedication to hospitality.

Our endurance races reflect our attitude to excel. They are the 
most prestigious events upheld by the Royal Families in the UAE. I love being a part of these time-honoured events as they have 
given me valuable insights about our culture and beliefs. Tourists can never get enough of celebrated events that make UAE famous such as the Dubai World Cup — one of the richest races in the world. In March 2012, it set the highest ever prize money of Dh36.7million (US$10 million).

Apart from classy malls, we in the UAE align our progress with the foresight of our visionary leaders, both royal and entrepreneurial. Well-travelled and well-versed with the world around us, we 
look to enhance the UAE so that modernity and rustic beauty 
flourish with ease. I cherish every trip to Fujairah with its fresh mountain air and getaways to 
idyllic Ras Al Khaimah, Al Ain and Umm Al Quwain. Who can forget the red-and-white tented interiors of the Expo Centre, Sharjah — my first sense of fairs and festivals at close range. It felt like being inside a gigantic beach ball, sampling treats and buying goodies from across the world.

As an advocate of the green

About Suhail Mohd Al Zarooni

Emirati collector Suhail Mohd. Al Zarooni is the first collector after the Royal Family of the UAE to be awarded a Guinness World Record for his 
personal collection of over 10,000 model cars. He has constructed a 
personal museum where he lives in Dubai, a city that also hosts the 
Guinness World Record for the tallest building called Burj Khalifa, and the world’s tallest residential building called Princess Tower at 414 metres situated at the Dubai Marina. The Al Zarooni family home in Jumeirah, as well as the museum in Al Barsha, is often visited by dignitaries, celebrities and VIPs from all over the world.

revolution, many of my friends have joined me in supporting the environment. We live for our children, literally; during Ramadan, we enjoy having a meal together after knowing what it feels like to have none after a very hot day.

In my younger days, when I 
visited Europe and the Far East, 
I would wish that the UAE would soon boast the attractions that lured a fascinated touristy traveller like me for an unforgettable visit. Nowadays, it’s somewhat unnecessary to leave for a holiday because mashallah, everything is literally at our doorstep. I’ve even taken my children skiing to Ski Dubai — the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East. Family and friends from abroad are always making plans to visit the United Arab Emirates.

It is a wonderful perspective of how far we’ve come, what we’ve built and what a gift it is to be able to provide for loved ones during Iftar and Suhoor. When I travel abroad with my children, they 
enjoy the places we visit in the same way I did, but with a sense of knowing that we have plenty of 
attractions waiting for us when 
we return home. I am indeed 
honoured to have been born in 
the UAE at a time when it was ready to take its first strides as 
a nation, and as we advance 
together, I am tremendously proud to be an Emirati.

(As told to Melissa Randhawa)





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