Meet the Emirati diplomat who designed UAE's flag as a teenager

Khaleej Times catches up with Abdullah Mohammed Al Maainah ahead of Flag Day on November 3



By Mazhar Farooqui

Published: Thu 28 Oct 2021, 4:57 PM

Last updated: Thu 28 Oct 2021, 5:41 PM

On December 2, it will be exactly 50 years since the UAE flag was first hoisted to mark the country's union.

Ahead of the UAE Flag Day on November 3, Khaleej Times caught up with veteran Emirati diplomat, Abdullah Mohammed Al Maainah, who had designed the symbol of the country's unity, pride and dignity when he was only 19 years old.

Al Maainah's design was chosen among more than 1,030 entries submitted as part of a nationwide contest.

Later, the winning flag was raised on December 2, 1971 — the Foundation Day of the UAE.

Five decades later, memories of the historic occasion are still fresh in Al Maainah's mind.

Curiously, he did not know his design had been selected until he saw the flag fluttering at Mushrif Palace in Abu Dhabi with his own eyes.

"It was an overwhelming feeling. All of us were happy because we had unified as one country. However, I was overjoyed the most," said the veteran diplomat, as he recalled how he found out about the contest and prepared for it with barely any time or resources.

"One of the arrangements related to declaring the establishment of the UAE at that time was to design a flag for it. A committee was formed to look into the matter and an advertisement was put out in the Al Ittihad newspaper inviting submissions from various artists," he reminisced.

Al Maainah said he stumbled upon the advertisement just three days before the deadline was to expire.

"It was a race against time, as I didn't have any drawing tools or colouring pencils. I rushed out to get them and worked all night to come up with the design. It was a happy feeling staying awake for the sake of designing the flag for my beloved country," he added.

Only two flags were raised on December 2, 1971, to mark the formation of the nation – one in Abu Dhabi, the other at Union House in Dubai.

Al Maainah said the colours of the UAE flag were not chosen randomly.

"Every colour has an innate meaning. White symbolises peace, goodness and purity, black represents solidarity, green stands for hope, prosperity and development while red denotes bravery and courage," he added.

Later, he was awarded 4,000 riyals as prize money, as the UAE dirham was yet to be introduced as the legal tender.

Al Maainah, who has travelled around the world as the UAE's ambassador to several foreign missions, cherishes the honour bestowed on him by the country's wise and visionary leadership for his design of the flag.

"The UAE flag has a special place in our hearts as it's a symbol of the independence and sovereignty of our country. As an Emirati, I'm very happy to see UAE residents from different nationalities join the Flag Day celebrations on November 3 to renew their allegiance, love and dedication to the country," he added.

On Tuesday, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, urged the people to mark the UAE Flag Day next Wednesday (November 3).

This will be the ninth time that the annual celebration will take place.

>> All you need to know about UAE Flag Day

However, this year's Flag Day will be particularly special, coming just weeks before the UAEs Golden Jubilee celebrations on December 2.

"Brothers and sisters, the UAE will celebrate the 50th year Flag Day on November 3. We call on our citizens, organisations and ministries to hoist the flag simultaneously on November 3 at 11am," Sheikh Mohammed tweeted.

"This symbolises the state, sovereignty and unity of the past 50 years and shall remain with us for the next 50 years to establish belonging, loyalty and love to the UAE soil," he further tweeted.

The event, which was conceived by Sheikh Mohammed to celebrate the accession of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa.

bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan as the president of the UAE, the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces in 2004, was first marked in 2013.

It is commemorated every year on the anniversary, which is, however, not a public holiday.

The day is marked by schools, government offices, businesses, and individuals hanging the national flag outside their homes and workplaces.

Flag-raising ceremonies, in which the national anthem is played, are also held to mark the occasion.

- mazhar@khaleejtimes.com


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