Ghaf tree: Nature's symbol of tolerance

Ghaf tree: Natures symbol of tolerance
UAE selects the Ghaf tree to represent its dedication to tolerance.

The Ghaf tree is now a symbol of the Year of Tolerance, announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai

By Ayisha Alka

Published: Sat 20 Apr 2019, 7:41 PM

In the words of The President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, "Instilling values of tolerance carries on Sheikh Zayed's legacy and teachings. It is one of the most important attributes that we can impact on our people and the global community to ensure the safety, stability and happiness of peoples around the world."

The decision to set 2019's theme as the 'Year of Tolerance' aims to promote the spirit of peace and unity in the UAE community and beyond, bringing together people of different nationalities, religions and races. This concept has a solid objective - to formulate policies surrounding values of tolerance, societal acceptance, being transparent and remaining respectful to a multicultural environment.

The Year of Tolerance is also aimed towards the youth to help elevate such policies, stimulating and spreading of kind acts and an overall pleasant atmosphere for every citizen to live in, without a worry of being discriminated. Eliminating extremism and promoting relationships between people of different cultures and nationalities, peace and harmony is created, which is the country's main agenda. This follows awareness campaigns and activations in order to preserve a balanced, harmonious environment. The theme of tolerance is being implemented through several sectors including tolerance in the workplace, tolerance in education, tolerance and culture, tolerance in policies and legislation, the UAE model of tolerance and tolerance in the media. With the help of such mediums, the message for tolerance is being campaigned and communicated throughout the region.

The main highlight of the Year of Tolerance is the Ghaf tree used as the symbol of tolerance. This may seem confusing to many, however, the Ghaf tree holds significant value. It holds heritage of environmental values and sheds light on old traditions and customs as witness to its growth throughout the years. It is dubbed as the "stability of the desert", holding monumental value. This tree has provided its growing branches and bark as a resting spot for shade whenever groups of people toiled through the scorching sun and needed a break.

The Ghaf tree is seen as a place where communication exists, for it was and still is, considered a spot for gathering and having a little chat before travelling to their next destination. It signifies stability - the fact that people would settle around the tree to recollect their thoughts or simply communicate with someone else showed its special spot in everyone's heart. The tree is also very strong in terms of being a source of food for both humans and animals when in need. Thus, it promotes sustainability as well as the art of giving. In the early centuries, tribal people would sit under the Ghaf tree and have important meetings and discussions - this again, shows the tree as a spot considered a vital place for communication and decisions. It also co-exists with the desert environment.

The tree symbolises the nature of the UAE. Being the national tree, it is drought-resistant, has the ability to tolerate harsh weather conditions and requires minimum to no water, although it is difficult for them to grow if insects affect the seeds initially.

With construction and development underway across the UAE, it has become illegal to cut a Ghaf. You will need permission from the authorities for any action taken. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said in a tweet: "Tolerance is a universal value, and Ghaf is our authentic national tree, a source of life and symbol of stability in the middle of the desert. Under its shadows, our ancestors gathered to consult on matters related to their daily lives. In the Year of Tolerance, we chose the Ghaf as a logo for all of us to live by the principles of tolerance, coexistence and diversity."

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