Even as a very young Ruler’s Representative in Al Ain from 1946, Shaikh Zayed invited people from all over the world to be a part of what would be the UAE’s breathtakingly brisk march of progress. Image Credit: WAM/Gulf News Archives

We celebrated the Year of Zayed in 2018 by paying rich tributes to Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and commemorating the qualities of this exceptional leader.

However, Shaikh Zayed will always be remembered and celebrated every year.

This is because without him we would not be what we are today.


He is the architect and founding father of the nation, which in a few decades has risen to a leading position in the world. The UAE has achieved milestones that other countries needed centuries to reach.

The leadership skills that Shaikh Zayed demonstrated from a very young age were not drawn from universities and academic isolation, but from the great fountain of experience that flows from embracing people of diverse cultures, nationalities and faiths.

March of progress

Even as a very young Ruler’s Representative in Al Ain from 1946, Shaikh Zayed invited people from all over the world to be a part of what would be the UAE’s breathtakingly brisk march of progress.

He recruited people of various nationalities, skills and perspectives into projects and development goals that ultimately enriched the UAE — from hospitals and schools to building a solid economic foundation for the country.

It was under Shaikh Zayed that the UAE took enormous and pioneering steps towards gender equality unprecedented in the region — and the results today are for the whole world to see. Emirati women proudly serve in the UAE’s Armed Forces and have embraced roles from lawmakers to police officers to pilots to economists.

He was the Arab world’s leading statesman and an astute builder of the nation state at a time when the region was wracked with divisive politics.

Shaikh Zayed’s diplomatic skills are well known and celebrated, but his deep scholarship and knowledge of Islamic and Arab culture was equally powerful and effective.

- Abdul Hamid Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief

Shaikh Zayed’s diplomatic skills are well known and celebrated, but his deep scholarship and knowledge of Islamic and Arab culture was equally powerful and effective.

He would often recite verses from the Quran to substantiate his views on a variety of subjects, thus immediately making them more accessible and credible for all to follow. Shaikh Zayed was also a poet – and his verses, heavily influenced by great Arab poets such as Abu Al Tayeb Ahmad Al Mutanabbi, delighted and educated generations of Emiratis and UAE residents.

We will celebrate 2019 as the Year of Tolerance. Shaikh Zayed’s name has also become synonymous with tolerance, a quality that has been instilled and deeply rooted in the conscience of Emirati society and culture.


Tolerance has become a way of life in the UAE.

This is evident in society — expatriates belonging to more than 200 nationalities of varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds live and work in harmony here.

The UAE has become an oasis of peace, love and a dignified life. Throughout the world, people of various nationalities and religions can feel the effects of Shaikh Zayed’s philanthropy through relief extended during emergencies and disasters.

The Year of Zayed has been an occasion to remind us of the valuable contributions of Shaikh Zayed to our lives. It is also a reminder for the younger generations of his exemplary leadership. But more important for us is to remember the policies, values and qualities that Zayed instilled in us. Baba Zayed will always remain a light that will illuminate our country’s path and help us overcome challenges and difficulties.

From the Year of Giving to the Year of Zayed and the Year of Tolerance, the commemorations are the UAE’s tribute to the inspiration of Shaikh Zayed. May Allah bestow his mercy upon Shaikh Zayed, who planted the seeds, the fruits of which we are harvesting.


Channelling discovery of oil into a lasting blessing Image Credit: Gulf News archives

A singular, and spectacular, example of Shaikh Zayed’s visionary scope and breadth is the way he channelled the discovery of oil into a lasting blessing for the UAE.

A unanimous gratitude for this farsightedness resides in the heart of every Emirati. Shaikh Zayed knew how to use the positive opportunities that presented themselves to the UAE for the good of his people.

With a towering personality, precise instincts and the courage to do the right thing, Shaikh Zayed brought an impetus of progress to the UAE that is marked by vigour and commitment.


He brought the environment into the classroom Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Cut a path, but don’t cut a tree. Eight words that continue to resonate among Emiratis generation after generation which align with the abiding beliefs and values of the father of the nation, Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and embody his passion and love towards the environment.

Environmental health was one of his core values and he activated his idea into realities for the UAE as he initiated a host of safeguards for the country’s natural riches — from the wildlife, birds, trees to the sands, seas and deserts.

He strove to bring the environment into the classroom, ensuring that the UAE’s tomorrow is in good hands.


Far-sightedness laid the foundation of literacy Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

One of Shaikh Zayed’s transforming emphases was on the importance of education as a national asset. His far-sightedness laid the foundation of education and literacy. Today the UAE has one of the highest literacy rates in the world.

In 1972, a federal law made education free and compulsory up to the primary level. A range of accredited institutions was established that today are the leading lights in the sector — UAE University in 1976, the Higher Colleges of Technology in 1988 and the Zayed University in 1998.

Shaikh Zayed believed that investing in people’s welfare, knowledge and capabilities would produce the greatest dividends for the community.

Tireless humanitarian

Legacy of giving selflessly continues to inspire Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Shaikh Zayed’s humanitarianism has touched millions of lives globally. From launching housing projects for the needy to providing food and medicine for people suffering from poverty regardless of race, gender, language or religion, Zayed’s inclusiveness is an integral part of the history of the great leaders of the world.

Shaikh Zayed prioritised humanitarian and charity issues, and the amount of aid provided by the UAE till the end of 2000, as per his directives, totalled more than Dh98 billion, in the form of grants, loans and assistance.

His legacy continues through policies that have helped the UAE be acknowledged as one of the top global donors.

Champion of women’s rights

Seeing a woman as the heart and soul of society Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Shaikh Zayed said: “Nothing makes me happier than seeing women take their exceptional role in society, and nothing must obstruct their advancement.”

His values always held that a woman is the heart and soul of society. Women’s education, emancipation and empowerment were among his core principles and Shaikh Zayed always pushed for girls to be enrolled in schools.

Emirati women today are striding past new milestones, making their presence felt in every aspect of governance, business and entrepreneurship, entering bastions that have been the domain of men and lending their insights and expertise to guide the UAE toward a more dynamic future.

Global leader

Fine balance between authority and empathy Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Immensely skilled, Shaikh Zayed exemplified the virtue of emancipation and courage as he dealt with diplomatic sensitivities with aplomb and finesse. He used his authority well and even as he extended empathy to others, he was also deeply aware of how to uphold the integrity of his own country’s priorities, a wisdom that was his hallmark as a leader.

His foundational love for his people was complemented by his immensely tolerant approach to other people and faiths that has paved the way for the UAE to be a melting pot of cultures and a shining example of harmony and amity of international diversity.

Unifier of the nation

Building a thriving country from a desert settlement Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Shaikh Zayed had nutured the dream about the unification of the UAE from the time he was the ruler of Al Ain in 1946. Through his determination and wisdom, his dream became a reality and he succeeded in establishing the Union on December 1, 1971. His distinctive leadership skills helped him achieve this tremendous task under extremely difficult circumstances and against great odds.

His vision took the UAE from a sparsely populated desert settlement to a nation with dizzying records of achievements and prosperity, enabling it to be counted among the most dynamic countries in the world in record time.

People’s leader

Towering father figure that Emiratis love and respect

The founding father was persistent and kind. He was imaginative and generous. Citizens of the UAE saw Shaikh Zayed as more than their country’s leader — they saw him as a father.

He was a father who celebrated his people’s weddings, would mourn at funerals and visit the ill in their homes to comfort them.

Immortalised as Baba Zayed, he is, for his people, the father figure they will always emulate, respect and cherish.

Role model

Exceptional calibre of simplicity and courage Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

The greatest mark of a leader is the way he makes his life an example for others and in this regard, Shaikh Zayed displayed an exceptional calibre of simplicity and courage and value-based living. Despite being the leader of a country, he lived a relatively modest life and was always in tune with his deep-rooted traditions.

Benevolent and compassionate, he loved his people with a commitment that became the success story of the UAE and he embodied for his people the principle of putting national interests above all else by leading a life that was in synergy with that life purpose. His imprint will forever inspire generations.

Acclaimed statesman

Impeccable interactions with world leaders Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

A host of renowned international authors have expressed their views on Shaikh Zayed in their books, having been privileged to meet him. Shaikh Zayed elicited unanimous admiration and respect in every one of them as they wrote about his greatness, humility, strength of belief and weighty wisdom.

His stewardship of the UAE and his impeccable interactions with world leaders earned him accolades of such fine quality that they will forever serve as priceless repositories of leadership signs for historians and for those interested to learn about great men at work.

Father of the nation

Exceptional ability to connect with all people Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

There are not many leaders in the history of the world who can be said to have loved their people like their own children. The overwhelming, and abiding, motif in the narrative of Shaikh Zayed is his exceptional ability to be seen as a father figure for all — children, youth and adults, men and women, in the UAE and outside.

During his time and now, from people who knew and interacted with him to the current generation who learns of him through reading narratives of his greatness, the consistent outpouring of love for Shaikh Zayed has a deeply paternal undertone to it, a rarity among leaders and their bonds with their people.


Achievements woven into UAE’s national fabric Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

When leaders envision, build and nurture a country through the sheer force of their personality and principles, their legacy is intertwined with every aspect of the country’s progress. The legacy becomes the driving force, the beacon, to steer the nation onwards for all times to come.

Shaikh Zayed’s contributions to the spectacular success story that the UAE is today are woven into its very national fabric and every facet of the country’s enviable profile has been initially chiselled by the artistry of Shaikh Zayed.

Generation after generation, the people of the UAE will be forever inspired by Shaikh Zayed’s legacy as they progress towards new horizons.