Dubai: The UAE is home to dozens of communities from across the world but not many would know that there are 300,000 Afghans residing in the country.

The Afghan-UAE relationship is unlike any as the ties between the two peoples precede the formation of the Union. The Afghans made for a big chunk of personnel in the country’s armed forces when the UAE was formed. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Afghans have made the UAE their home, quietly working and contributing in their own way to the progress of the country.

The past four decades have witnessed contrasting swings in the fortunes of the two nations. As the UAE grew into a prosperous and stable country, the situation in Afghanistan has turned from bad to worse. Over the years, the UAE has taken a leading role in helping rebuild the war-torn nation.

On Wednesday evening, around 700 prominent members of the Afghan community in the UAE, including the ambassador of Afghanistan to the UAE, gathered at the Cultural Palace in Sharjah and expressed their gratitude to the UAE for its hospitality and support.

“UAE has been one of the donor countries who have given millions of US dollars towards rebuilding of Afghanistan. This includes building of schools, universities, housing for disabled Afghans and their families as well as provision of aid to many poor Afghans throughout the last 30 years. We gathered here today to appreciate UAE’s role and thank the leadership,” said Ajmal Khan Zazai, the chairman of the United Afghan Tribes in Afghanistan, who organised the event.

Many of those who gathered for the celebrations were men who have lived in the UAE for around 50 years and proudly call it their home.

“I don’t know any other home, I came here with my family as a teenager and since then we have settled here. UAE is in my blood and I love it as my country. I thank the UAE leadership, especially the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan for his generosity and support,” said septuagenarian Zabiullah Jan, who came all the way from Al Ain for the event.

Jan who was attired in Emirati costume complete with Agal and Ghotra was not alone in singing the UAE’s praises.

Mohammad Ameen, 50, said he was born in the UAE before the country was born. “My father came here as a farmer in the 1960s, when late Shaikh Zayed launched his plantation drive. We have stayed on since then, enjoying the hospitality of this beautiful country,” said Ameen, who too resides in Al Ain, which has a sizeable population of Afghans.

Among the guests attending the event were Dr. Najibullah Mujaddidi, ambassador of Afghanistan to the UAE; Atiqullah, consul general of Afghanistan in Dubai; as well Khalid Ahmad Zakariya, ambassador of Afghanistan to Qatar, who made a rousing speech.

Also present were senior ministers of Afghan cabinet and members of parliament.