'Only nearly fine?': Sultan AlNeyadi shares light moment with UAE President, VP

The astronaut gifted the national flag he took to space to Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Mon 18 Sep 2023, 8:37 PM

Last updated: Mon 18 Sep 2023, 9:30 PM

Sultan AlNeyadi shared a light moment with the UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, when they received the Emirati astronaut at the Abu Dhabi airport.

“How are you?” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid was heard asking him AlNeyadi. “I am almost fine,” AlNeyadi responded. “Only almost?” Sheikh Mohammed asked him as the astronaut laughed along with the leaders.

The astronaut then thanked the leaders for the immense opportunity he received. “The information and knowledge I got during my time [at the ISS] can be used for the betterment of not just Emiratis but the entire Arab world,” he said.

He then introduced his father and children to the Rulers. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid embraced the children and kissed them on their foreheads. “My family was extremely well taken care of,” AlNeyadi told the leaders. “They didn’t have any difficulty, and that eased my heart when I was in space.”

Flag from space

After exchanging pleasantries, AlNeyadi took out a transparent bag from his pocket that had the UAE flag. It's the same flag the astronaut carried with him to space. He carefully slid it out and gifted it to the President, who unfurled it before holding it close to his face and kissing it.

Sheikh Mohamed posted on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) that he was 'honoured' to welcome AlNeyadi back home.

"The people of the UAE are united in pride for his remarkable achievement, which has further advanced our nation's space exploration ambitions," he wrote.

AlNeyadi often spoke about his admiration for the UAE leaders and how they were his role models. Both the Rulers interacted with him before and during his space mission. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid called him an inspiration for children and youth to discover the world of space and research and learn more about it.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid also tweeted about receiving AlNeyadi. “The arrival of Sultan Al Neyadi represents a major milestone in the UAE’s scientific development process and also represents a bright point in the UAE’s journey of investing in people, which the founders began and we continue today,” he wrote.

After their initial interactions, AlNeyadi sat in between the UAE President and Vice-President and had some intense conversations in the company of several others, including Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Other astronauts of the UAE space programme, like Hazza Al Mansouri, Nora Al Matrooshi and Mohammad AlMulla, were also present at the grand red-carpet welcome given to AlNeyadi.

Entertainment programmes, including traditional music and dance performances, were part of the homecoming staged for AlNeyadi at the new Abu Dhabi airport. Hundreds of children lined up, waving posters and UAE flags, hoping to catch a glimpse of AlNeyadi and shake hands with him.

Several people clamoured to take selfies with him as the nation embraced him as their pride. It was on September 4 that AlNeyadi returned to Earth after spending six months aboard the International Space Station (ISS). He created history by being on the Arab world’s longest space mission. He also became the first Arab man to conduct a spacewalk.


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