Sheikh Zayed - A true visionary
Dubai/Abu Dhabi - It is Sheikh Zayed's vision that has made UAE what it is today - a happy land full of opportunities
The year 2018 has been marked as the Year of Zayed, to celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of the late, great leader Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and to allow the people of the UAE to celebrate his remarkable life and achievements.
A man who dedicated his life to improving his country and humanity in general was born in 1918. In 1946, he was handed over the reins of Al Ain. He became the ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966 and on December 2, 1971, after he actively led the unification of the seven emirates and the formation of the UAE, he was elected President of the new Union.
His name, reputation and the nation he built have earned him a reputation that very few leaders of the world can boast of. A visionary leader - is what he is and will always be known as - starting from his foresight in unifying the seven different emirates and the set the course for the country's stratospheric growth.
It is said that one cannot understand the UAE without understanding the life of Sheikh Zayed and his vision, the way he devoted his life to the service of his people and his success at being a leader of men and a country.
Famously known to be one of the world's most approachable leaders, it was Sheikh Zayed's vision that has made UAE what it is today - a happy land full of opportunities.
Among his many visions, the most important one was the unification of seven emirates into a single federation and transforming it into a modern nation.
A voice for modernism, he relentlessly worked to develop cooperation between the seven Trucial States (as the UAE was called before the unification). It was thanks to his vision that the modernisation of the UAE was achieved without any loss of social, traditional and cultural values.
On one hand, he promoted equestrianism, camel racing and hunting and on the other hand he encouraged nationals to seek out and develop themselves through education. He wanted the youth to be highly learned, seek employment and benefit the society. Sheikh Zayed once said: "Knowledge is the only weapon to guarantess a future. cultivate your manners, be obedient to your teachers. The state places all its hopes in you and believes that it is investing in our most important natural resource."
As he became the President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed remained at the heart of every plan and decision that transformed the UAE and ensured its people's prosperity. In one interview, he had said: "It is my duty to provide the basics of a decent life for every citizen in the country. our goal is to prepare the next generation to carry the responsibility of building the future."
In 1972, he also told the Federal National Council: "The future of the United Arab Emirates depends on sincerity, effort and sacrifice, yours and mine."
Taking a remarkable demarcation from old ways and thinking, the great ruler was farsighted enough to see that ignoring the value of women - half the population - would be wasting a natural valuable asset. Therefore, he decided to give his wife Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak a key role in his administration and support her.
Since 1966 until now, Sheikha Fatima has taken charge of innumerable programmes to emancipate Emirati women. These include women's-only cultural and social centres all over the UAE and numerous other programmes and initiatives. Today, she is rightly hailed as the "mother of the nation" for her efforts.
Sheikh Zayed encouraged women to seek education and become productive. "I completely approve of women in the workplace. How could I possibly say otherwise when our Islam sanctions it? I subscribe to this completely, with one condition, that any work should correspond to a woman's nature and safeguard her dignity."
Believing that it is important to pursue development that meets the needs of the present and future generations, Sheikh Zayed laid out a vision that would ensure the sustainable development of the UAE.
He formed official institutions such as the Federal Environment Agency and Abu Dhabi's Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency. Stressing the responsibility the government must assume in conserving the natural environment, he also called upon individuals to play a role in ensuring that the region developed sustainably.
In a speech he delivered to mark the UAE's first Environment Day in February 1998, Sheikh Zayed said: "We cherish our environment because it is an integral part of our country, our history and our heritage. On land and in the sea, our forefathers lived and survived in this environment. They were able to do so only because they recognised the need to conserve it, to take from it only what they needed to live, and to preserve it for succeeding generations."
Also, part of the country's heritage is its flora and fauna and keeping that in mind, the late Sheikh Zayed also created a sanctuary for endangered species such as the Arabian Oryx and the sand gazelle. He also reintroduced traditional methods of desert agriculture, ensuring that Abu Dhabi will be greener and more fertile. Falconry, a traditional part of the emirates' heritage, was also preserved and promoted.
The late Sheikh Zayed's vision continues to inspire leaders of today and all generations, not only in the UAE and the Gulf region, but across the world.
(Compiled by Saman Haziq)