Abu Dhabi: Emiratis who had the privilege of meeting the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan shared recollections of their times spent with the UAE’s founding father, recounting how the late leader was a man of the people with a vision on the future.
“I was only 20 years old when I first met Shaikh Zayed; he was truly an amazing person. Whenever he visited our village in Al Ain, everyone would come out to welcome him and it was his style to meet the people,” said Mohammad Bin Salmeen Al Mansouri, an elderly Emirati man who was speaking at the GCC Oral History and Heritage Conference in Abu Dhabi.
“Whenever Shaikh Zayed met the people, whether it was in Al Ain or Abu Dhabi, he would always listen to their requests and what they needed and would give them what they wanted,” Al Mansouri added, highlighting the care Shaikh Zayed took towards meeting the needs of his people.
Al Mansouri also shared some lighthearted moments he had with Shaikh Zayed, such as when the late leader taught him how to swim.
“There was a pool in Al Ain and he was teaching me how to swim but I was a poor learner.”
Hiab Bin Hatha Al Kutbi, another Emirati, shared his memories of visiting the palace of Shaikh Zayed when he was a young child.
“I saw Shaikh Zayed for the first time when I was six years old, and he treated me like one of his own children. I remember one time we were at his palace in Al Ain and we were sitting a little away from him and he came to us and brought us closer to him,” Al Kutbi recounted.
“All of us felt like he was our own father because of how good he treated us. He truly raised this nation as if it were his own children,” he added.
Al Kutbi also recalled the importance Shaikh Zayed put towards education in the late 1960s for both boys and girls, laying the foundation for the country’s education sector.
“In those days, Shaikh Zayed encouraged students to attend school by giving them a lot of incentives. They had free meals and free books as well as free transportation.”
Yousuf Ahmad Al Hammadi, another Emirati who had the privilege of meeting Shaikh Zayed, spoke about witnessing the modesty of Zayed.
“When we used to go the desert he acted like our elder brother. He would cut the food into pieces and distribute it to everyone before helping himself.
“There were other times when we were having lunch and someone would come to the table and not find a place; Shaikh Zayed would make space for them and ask them to join in. I saw this with my own eyes, this is the modesty of Shaikh Zayed,” Al Hammadi said.