Turning back the pages to 1979

Dubai’s civic body has a unique relationship with Queen Elizabeth II.

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Published: Wed 24 Nov 2010, 11:55 AM

Last updated: Tue 23 May 2023, 2:57 PM

The main headquarters of Dubai Municipality that houses most of its major departments and over 1500 officials and employees was inaugurated by the Queen during her first visit to the UAE in 1979.

The inauguration of the Municipality building was one of the major events in the agenda of the state visit of the British Monarch. The eight-storey building off Dubai Creek in Deira is now bigger with a modern annexe getting attached to it during the last decade.

Though everyone working in the building is proud of the fact that their office was officially opened by the Queen of UK, only a handful of Municipal officials can proudly cherish the memories of being present at the time when she actually did it.

The oldest among the lot are the ones who witnessed the Queen unveiling the plaque under the flagpoles outside the building complex. The inscription on the plaque carrying the date February 25, 1979 reads “This plaque commemorates the presentation of the key of Dubai, United Arab Emirates to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”

Hundreds of residents had crowded the area to get a glimpse of Her Majesty as she was received by the then Ruler of Dubai, Shaikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, his sons Shaikh Hamdan and Shaikh Mohammed, Director of Dubai Municipality Kamal Hamza, and other senior government officials.

Humaid Saeed Al Gaith, assistant director of Finance Dept. for Compensation Affairs in Dubai Municipality recalls how excited everyone was to welcome the Queen. “Elaborate preparations were made by the Ruler’s office and the police to welcome her. For Dubai, her visit was a sign of growth as well,” said Al Ghais who was the head of the section at that time. He said the photo of her visit in which he is also seen is a valuable asset .

Director of Knowledge Management Department Khalil Ali Hussain, who was heading the Personnel Section during the Queen’s visit, said the inaugural ceremony of the Municipality office was the biggest celebration of those years. “It was a big thing for Dubai and the UAE. Dubai was the first place she visited in the Gulf,” he recollected.

When officials like them managed to see the Queen very close, other municipal employees waited on the way to have a glimpse of the Queen passing by. Among them was Mohammed Rafiq Ali Mohammed, who last month retired as a senior building inspector from the Building Permits Section of the Buildings Department.

“Dubai was not much populated at that time. Still there were hundreds of people who gathered on the roadside to see the Queen,” said Mohammed who took his wife and three children along with him to see the Queen. “My neighbour also came along with his family. Students of Indian and Pakistani schools also were there,” he said.

Mohammed, who considers watching the British Monarch from a distance of some 10feet away as one of the proud moments of his life, vividly remembers how the crowd applauded on the arrival of the Queen and her entourage. “When she passed by, we waved at her and she waved back,” he said.

Though all of them are delighted about the Queen’s second visit to the country, they are not sure if they can see her this time. “I will definitely be watching her on TV,” said Mohammed who had longed to see the Queen again when the news about her visit broke earlier this year.

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