Remembering Peter Hellyer, a mentor and colleague

Peter Hellyer was an honest man, with a heart as big as his mission, always extending a helping hand to others even until his very last days. His well-earned respect permeated every level of society, from royalty to the office boy

by

Rasha Abu Baker

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File. Peter Hellyer and late Ibrahim Al Abed (C) on National Day in 2017. — File photo
File. Peter Hellyer and late Ibrahim Al Abed (C) on National Day in 2017. — File photo

Published: Tue 4 Jul 2023, 4:52 PM

Last updated: Tue 4 Jul 2023, 10:03 PM

I first met Peter Hellyer in 2012, when I joined the Emirates News Agency (WAM) as a news editor. I was instantly captivated by his profound understanding of journalism and his commitment to nurturing the media landscape in the UAE. At the time, Peter was serving as an advisor to the National Media Council and working hand-in-hand with another media great, the late Ibrahim Al Abed, NMC founder.

Peter and I quickly bonded over a shared ambition — to contribute towards building a more transparent and superior media sector in the UAE. Peter was warm, welcoming and, despite his full schedule, he always made time to address every concern and challenge, provide guidance and dispense wisdom in both professional and personal matters.


Peter's storytelling was captivating and there was a contagious allure to his passionate and descriptive delivery that I could never get enough of. His anecdotes included ones from the humble beginnings of the Emirates, his time working with the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan or driving King Charles, then Prince of Wales, through Sir Bani Yas, to his elation over archaeological discoveries in the UAE, and of course his beloved hobby of bird watching. I vividly remember him, with a glint in his eyes, talking about bird watching and sharing stories of the various species he had spotted in the Emirates. His passion for this hobby, that I knew little to nothing about, was infectious. His stories often featured affectionate references to his native Jersey and his treasured family, especially his children.

Over the last few months, Peter was as humble as he was resilient, underplaying his illness and never allowing it to overshadow his fighting spirit. He was an honest man, with a heart as big as his mission, always extending a helping hand to others even until his very last days. His well-earned respect permeated every level of society, from royalty to the office boy.


Peter’s immeasurable service to the UAE was reflected in the vast turnout at his funeral on Monday, with ministers and members of the royal family in attendance. Even the President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, expressed his condolences in a heartfelt message on Twitter, saying: “Peter was a model of dedication and generosity, and we pray that he rests in peace,” — a fitting testament to the remarkable influence and reach that Peter had cultivated within the community.

One image of Peter that will forever be imprinted in my mind is of him in his office, surrounded by stacks of newspapers, files and books, typing away on his computer. A reflection of his boundless thirst for knowledge and his simple yet powerful desire to make a difference. Another is his ubiquitous safari hat which he wore almost everywhere, driving his worn-out, yet reliable Nissan Patrol.

Peter connected me to fascinating people and valuable experiences. He embodied priceless lessons about perseverance, integrity, and the importance of always keeping the door open for those who sought guidance. His engagement in meaningful projects, from archaeology to human rights, was a courageous demonstration of his commitment to making an impact wherever he could.

In the heart of this extraordinary man was a kindness that knew no bounds and a bravery that I deeply admired. Thank you, Peter, for your unwavering support, invaluable lessons, for your encouragement and for believing in me. While you will be greatly missed, you will never be forgotten. The influence you've had on me — to relentlessly pursue knowledge and strive for self-improvement — will forever resonate within me. Peter Hellyer's legacy is a testament to a life lived with purpose, integrity, and immense dedication to the betterment of others. If only there were more like him, the world would be a much better place.

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