In recognition of the United Arab Emirates National Day, December 2, and the ‘Year of Zayed’ it is fitting to consider Sheikh Zayed’s achievements and how a great leader can impact people and their lives.
Who was Sheikh Zayed?
Born in 1918, he was the ruler of Abu Dhabi for 38 years. Although the youngest of his siblings, his leadership and charisma were evident. It was his vision and hard work that saw the seven separate Emirates unify into one country, the United Arab Emirates, and as one, achieve lucrative deals from the oil discovered.
He was a renaissance man who valued education and poetry as well as being a rugged horseman and falconer.
When he came to power the Abu Dhabi, like the other Emirates was little more than an underdeveloped fishing and pearling village with no roads. More than 95% of the population was illiterate in the late 1960s.
What Sheikh Zayed did
- He personally adopted more than 1000 orphans and ensured they were cared for and educated.
- Turned the desert green.
- Created modern cities with first class infrastructure, health and education systems
- Safe-guarded oil riches to benefit Emirate people directly.
- Provided each Emirate family three lots of land: one for business, one for a home and one in the country.
- Empowered Emirate women through education and employment opportunities.
- He welcomed foreign business and workers into UAE but ensured the Emirate ways and people benefited.
His visions still remain, and the Emirates still benefit from the oil riches. On National Day the royal family often grant gifts to the people, such as erasing mortgages, or credit card debts.
“Arab oil can never be dearer than Arab blood.”
“Islam affords women their rightful status, and encourages them to work in all sectors, as long as they are afforded appropriate respect.”
“Wealth is not money. Wealth lies in men. This is where true power lies, the power we value. This is what has convinced us to direct all our resources to build the individual, and to use the wealth which God has provided us in the service of the nation.”
“Every individual has to perform his duty. Man is mortal, but his work is not. Therefore, work is greater than wealth. The real asset of any advanced nation is its people. The prosperity of the people is measured by the standard of their education.”