UAE The global capital of tolerance
Image Credit: Ramachandra Babu/©Gulf News
Hassan Sajwani

Dubai: Once again on the 2nd of December, we celebrate UAE National Day, the 48th this time. I ask this question why and what else are we celebrating on this national day apart from the spirit of the union of this great nation. What achievements and milestones that the UAE has hit making every individual living on soil so proud and jubilant to celebrate the national day with such a spirit?

The year of 2019 was designated to be the Year of Tolerance, emphasizing the UAE’s position as the global capital for tolerance. At the beginning, many asked how this would be celebrated with more than 200 nationalities, cultures, religions, races, and beliefs living in this country. Can there be harmony and coexistence among such a diversified large group of people living in the same society?

To start with, the UAE gave a very interesting answer: The Papal Visit – a historical visit by His Holiness Pope Francis to the UAE on an invitation of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. This was not just any visit, this was living proof of how the UAE under the great leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan promoted tolerance, coexistence, openness, and acceptance of cultural and religious differences. One could have never imagined that a papal visit would even be possible to the Arabian Peninsula.

The visit was unique and spiritual as the Pope also delivered a historical first ever papal mass on an Arab and Muslim land in Abu Dhabi. The mass was attended by more than 180,000 people living here in the UAE, Catholics and Muslims all together, and many travelled to the UAE to attend this remarkable gathering.

Pope Francis at Abu Dhabi airport
Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, arrived last Monday and was greeted by His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. Image Credit: WAM
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Pope Francis celebrates a mass at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: AP

The UAE also hosted the Human Fraternity Meeting, organized by the Muslim Council of Elders, with the aim to enhance dialogue on coexistence of humans globally. It further aimed to tackle the intellectual extremism, strengthen human relations and establish bases for such relations based on mutual respect and understanding. The meeting was held in conjunction with the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis and His Eminence Dr. Ahmad Al Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif. This made the UAE a launchpad for human initiatives to eradicate evil and extremism, taking us to a whole new level of achieving peace, collaboration, and cultural diversity.

The pope in Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Pope Francis and Dr Ahmed El Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar. Image Credit: WAM

While humanity on earth was witnessing a great new initiative taking place to promote peace and harmony, the International Space Station orbiting approximately 400 kilometres above us was preparing to welcome Zayed’s ambition.

Last year, the UAE successfully launched KhalifaSat, a satellite developed 100 per cent by a team of Emirati engineers. But this year was different, for the first time ever, we sent a man to the space and to the International Space Station (ISS)!

On 25th September 2019, the UAE’s F-16 pilot Hazza Al Mansoori became the first Emirati to reach space, and the first Arab to travel to the ISS. Hazza travelled on a historic flight through Russian spacecraft Soyuz MS-15 lifting off from Kazakhstan, and successfully returning to earth after an eight-day mission filled with experiments and exploration. Emirati Astronaut Hazza Al Mansoori became a national hero and a symbol of honor, not just for young Emiratis, but also for the whole Arab world. This was the dream and vision of our founding father the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan when he met a group of Apollo 17 crew in Abu Dhabi in 1976.

United Arab Emirates astronaut Hazza Almansoori, member of the main crew of the expedition to the International Space Station (ISS), gestures prior the launch of Soyuz MS-15 space ship at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. Image Credit: AP
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Hazzaa AlMansoori wears the kandoura as he shares a meal together with two of his colleagues on the ISS during the Emirati traditional night. Image Credit: Twitter/@roscosmos

Achievements like these in such a short span of time are usually heard from great nations like the United States of America, China, or Russia; but when the UAE, at such a young age, brings such positive developments, it really proves us that Zayed’s ambitions can be achieved.

Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan exemplified the spirit of giving and assisted all those in need regardless of race or religion. Image Credit: WAM

So, what’s next? Mars is the answer. UAE’s Hope Probe is now under vacuum testing. The probe will be launched in 2020 and would reach the red planet by 2nd of December 2021, marking our celebrations of Golden Jubilee of the union. And we don’t stop there, the UAE has ambitious plans to build the first city on Mars by 2117.

I haven’t forgotten the words of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who said that the word “impossible” does not exist in our dictionary. With these strong ambitions, coupled with the smart thinking of our leadership, there is a whole new era of advancement and development waiting for the UAE in just next few years.

Meanwhile, in 2020 our plans are also big, we are welcoming the whole world to showcase the World’s Greatest Show where we aim to build partnerships and inspire ideas that will forge the world of tomorrow. Hayyakom to Expo 2020 Dubai!

Hassan Sajwani is an Emirati writer on current affairs, counter terrorism, tech, and business; you may follow him on Twitter @HSajwanization