A view of Wahat Al Karama, which is located near Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Emirati men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice by laying their lives down for their country have been honoured for their actions with the opening of Wahat Al Karama (Oasis of Dignity) memorial site in Abu Dhabi on Commemoration Day on Wednesday.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, commissioned the building of the memorial site last year, with the site’s construction starting in March this year. The memorial site which is located east of Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi has been designated as a cultural landmark for the country.

The entire memorial site area covers more than 42,000 square metres, and consists of different sections including the Pavilion of Honour and the Memorial Monument.

The Pavilion of Honour

It is in the Pavilion of Honour where the names of the 196 Emirati martyrs are enshrined on the walls along with where and when they were martyred. The pavilion has several patriotic and religious themes. The pavilion’s roof has eight panels, seven of them representing the seven emirates of the UAE and the eighth panel representing the UAE’s martyrs.

Mariam Nabeel, a guide from the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Cultural Authority, explained the idea behind the Pavilion of Honour and what it meant to signify.

“This area has the names of all 196 martyrs and it goes from right to left. The material of the wall is made from aluminium. Going around the pavilion, above the walls are verses from the Quran and this is meant to show that our martyrs will be in paradise. The aluminium itself was brought from China and Australia,” she said.

“In the middle of the pavilion, we also have placed big anti-reflective glass pieces that contain the country’s military pledge of allegiance on them, each glass weighs 1.2 tonnes and the oaths signify the heroes who have reflected the pledge’s words in their actions and sacrifices. There are a total of seven glass pieces to once again reflect the seven emirates,” she added.

Nabeel said that visitors who come to the monument could feel a sense of pride.

“The pavilion represents both peace and pride, the visitor can feel proud of the UAE heroes for what they have done for their country and they can contemplate the sacrifices that have been made by our heroes for us and our country. The pavilion also represents our traditions, culture, and religion — on the entrance wall of the pavilion is the first chapter of the Quran, and so we believed that it was important to link all of these concepts together because they represent the UAE and what our heroes stood for.”

The Memorial Monument

Designed by British artist Idris Khan, the Memorial Monument stands both as a fantastic piece of architecture and as a strong message of the ideals of the UAE. The monument consists of several tall standing metal tablets, and have been designed in a way to show unity with the tablets leaning onto one another.

Etched on the tablets are also the sayings of the UAE’s leaders, including the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE, President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed.

The monument section also has a falaj water system running through it — an irrigation method that was commonly used by Emiratis when channelling water for their oasis — making the monument a true oasis of dignity, and giving the area a very peaceful feeling.

“The Memorial Monument represents the unity between the leaders of the UAE and its people, and that is why the metal panels lean on to each other, the metal panels are visualising this reality,” explained Nabeel.

“There are a total of 31 standing pieces and one horizontal — the tallest standing piece is 23 metres’ high. The panels are all made from aluminium and altogether weigh 500 tonnes. They were made and cast in two factories, one in Australia and the other in China and then they were assembled here at the memorial.

“Hand-painted and written on the metal panels are also the sayings and poems of the late Shaikh Zayed, and the sayings of other leaders like Shaikh Khalifa and Shaikh Mohammad. These sayings are meant to inspire Emiratis about their country and serving their homeland,” Nabeel said.

“At the back of the monument is also the spine, and we see this as a connection between the monument and the pavilion. Engraved on the spine is the pledge of allegiance that is made by the UAE Armed Forces, which pledges to protect the homeland,” she added.

The Memorial Plaza

Situated beside the Memorial Monument is the Memorial Plaza, a large open area that is over 4,000 square metres. The plaza area is where the Commemoration Day ceremony was held, and it will continue to act as the area for all future ceremonies.

The centre of the Memorial Plaza will also be filled with water for most of the year, with the water acting as a reflection for the nearby Memorial Monument and the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Its reflection will offer a tranquil and peaceful environment to the area. The water will be drained once a year for the Commemoration Day event.

Wahat Al Karama

  • The memorial park is 42,000 square metres
  • Separated into different sections: the Memorial Monument, the Pavilion of Honour, and the Memorial Plaza
  • Names of 196 martyrs remembered at the Pavilion of Honour
  • Memorial Monument has 31 standing metal panels each several metres high, the highest one is 23 metres
  • The Memorial Plaza is over 4,000 square metres
  • The memorial site is located east of the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi