Fatma Al Hamlee, businesswoman

Fatma Al Hamlee, at her Farm. Abu Dhabi. Photo: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

“When our Founding Father late Shaikh Zayed came, our situation completely changed ... He came and with him came all good,” says Fatma.

“Life was rudimentary. I remember that when electricity service was supplied to remote desert areas, no one knew what electricity was, how light bulbs worked and how they were switched on.

“We were very surprised when the television set entered the houses and the ladies, especially the elderly, were covering their faces when the image of a man, who was the announcer on TV, was shown — in the belief that the announcer was watching their faces ...

“We slept in the open without any lighting or cooling in the summer months. Zayed introduced electricity to our homes, our children entered schools and were taught to read, write and modern science.

“We are proud of our country and its Rulers ... We offer our souls in defence of our homeland and leadership,” says “National Day for me and every citizen means everything that is beautiful in this country. We feel that we were born and all created on this day with the birth of the state.

“There are so many achievements by the UAE,” she says. “It is the best in terms of infrastructure and urban planning and the transformation of the desert into giant modern cities, education and advanced technology and travelling into space, one is unable to talk about them all.

Fatma says there is no one favourite spot in the UAE for her. “Every emirate and every spot is my favourite. The UAE is part of my heart and soul.”

Her dreams for the UAE are for it to be the best country in the world and the first and best in everything. And to be an Emirati “is a special feature that no other citizen of any country in the world enjoys. When we travel abroad ... they ask us ‘Where are you from?’ We say with pride: “I am from the United Arab Emirates.”

— Abdulla Rasheed, Abu Dhabi Editor


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Shamsa Ibrahim, Student M.Sc. Artificial Intelligence at Heriot-Watt University. Dubai. Photo: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

Shamsa Ebrahim, Student, M.Sc. Artificial Intelligence, Heriot-Watt University Dubai campus

During the day, she works as a Senior Infrastructure System Engineer at the Ministry of Infrastructure Development, “where I started off as a junior.” In the evenings, she attends classes at Heriot-Watt University Dubai for a master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence. “I strongly believe AI is going to be one of the top skills of the future and I look forward to applying my knowledge [to] benefit businesses in the UAE,” Shamsa says.

“There are so many amazing things about the UAE that it is hard for me decide [which is more impressive]. If I had to make a choice, it would be the that the Global Competitiveness Report 2019 by the World Economic Forum ranked the UAE 25th globally and as leading the Arab region.”

Her favourite places in Dubai are the Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort, built in 1787, to protect Dubai Creek and the Bastakia Quarter, “which is highly evocative of a bygone era. I love the wind towers in Bastakia and never miss a chance to dine at the Arabian Teahouse,” she says.

On the occasion of the UAE’s 48th National Day, her dream for her country is to see it continue to be a force for positive change. “The UAE is a young nation. Since being founded as a Federation in 1971, the country’s visionary leadership has seen it grow rapidly into one of the world’s most open and successful economies. And my dream is to see it continue to ... serve as a global model for openness and tolerance, that is much needed in these troubled times.”

The special thing about being an Emirati, says Shamsa, “is that no matter how far we come, how much we achieve, we never forget our roots, culture and heritage.”

— Malavika Kamaraju, Features Editor


Hamda Saeed Salem Al Mathubi, 65

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Hamda Al Mathubai poses for the pictures, during the portrait photoshoot at her residence in Al badee area in Sharjah for the National Day special report in Gulf News. 21st November 2019. Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

She has been making Chami [a traditional type of Emirati cheese made from yoghurt, which is similar to cottage cheese] for a long time now. Chami is usually drizzled with ghee (clarified butter) and eaten with dates.

Umm Rashid, as she likes to be called, drives every day from her house in Al Buda’a area of Sharjah to her farm where she spends most of her time with her cattle.

A Sharjah resident all her life, her time on the farm is a way of life that is very dear to her and she likes to be close to her roots. The reason she makes Chami, says Umm Rashid, is that she would like to preserve the traditional foods of the UAE and help the future generations to be able to appreciate and know of their food heritage.

The UAE, she says, has made remarkable achievements that have helped catapult the nation to the ranks of advanced nations, thanks to the sincere and tireless efforts spearheaded by Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and his fellow founding fathers.

“The excellence and leadership of the country in various fields is based on its sound vision, long-term determination and indomitable will.”

As an Emirati, “I would like to see my country to be the best [country] in the world,” she says.

— Aghaddir Ali, Senior Reporter


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Al Shamsi says the Union was the fruit of a good tree planted by the nation’s leaders.

Obeid Al Shamsi, in his 40s, Government employee

Sitting in a coffee shop with his friends at a beach hotel, the Ajman-resident recalls the days of his ancestors and how they passed on the love for the country to their children.

“The love for the homeland is in our soul and blood; every day, we celebrate the anniversary of the union and the solidity of the society,” says Al Shamsi. He thanks the UAE Rulers for their support and care and for meeting the aspirations of their people.

“On this great day, I offer my heartfelt congratulations and profound appreciation to UAE leadership. Their collective vision has made the UAE achieve a great position globally and compete with big countries on its own terms.

“This Union was the fruit of a good tree planted by our fathers who dreamed of the idea with hope, took care of it with their dedication to raise the flag of the Union as high as they could and strengthened its pillars,” he says.

“They are really the spirit of the Union; from their life and history, generations will draw lessons and carry on the responsibility under the watch of a glorious nation that takes pride in its past, its giving present and promising future.”

— Aghaddir Ali, Senior Reporter


Ali Bin Ahmad Al Noon, septuagenarian, from Dibba Al Fujairah

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Ali Bin Ahmed AL Noon Al Dhanhani, An Emarati from Dibba Fujeirah, poses for the picture at Dibba Fujeirah. Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

‘As Emiratis, we will not forget the legacy of our ancestors. Despite the challenges of globalisation, we are proud of our heritage and are making efforts to revive and convey it to the other generations,” says Al Noon.

“We are proud of what we have achieved over the past years.

The UAE union, he says, is a social and collective responsibility.

A regular invitee by universities in Fujairah to give lectures on how to preserve marine heritage, Al Noon has spent most of his life at sea and possesses vast knowledge about the maritime and seafaring traditions of the UAE.

The sea, he says, offers him a great sense of peace and happiness and that’s where he spends most of his time.

“We are blessed with a distinguished leadership which makes life easy for us,” he says.

Emiratis as well as expats in the UAE, he says, are living a good life thanks to the founders of the Union and UAE’s Founding Father, Shaikh Zayed.

His love for the sea began as a child when he was given lessons by his father on its generosity and its ability to sustain people. For centuries, the sea has shared of its largesse and fed generation after generation, his father would say.

Through the passage of time, people here relied on the sea for their livelihood, by fishing and pearl diving, he was told.

“Every year, on National Day, we participate in a rowing race,” says Al Noon.

“It’s a heritage sport of our ancestors.”

He urges the young generation to preserve UAE’s maritime heritage by participating in boat racing events.

— Aghaddir Ali, Senior Reporter


Jasim Humaid, an Emarati from Umm Al Quwain poses for the picture in Umm Al Quwain. (for UAE National day story) Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Jasem Humaid, 47, Employee with Ministry of Interior

“The UAE today greets the world as a country that is ever willing to lend a helping hand to those in need, says Humaid. “It’s a country that is happy to celebrate the occasions of other countries,” he adds.
On this National Day, he wishes to once again express his appreciation for this country that is his birthplace and that has nurtured and raised him. “Every year, I, along with my family, celebrate the National Day and we are honoured and proud of our country and our leaders who are making our lives better by the day,” he said.

The country’s systems and governance have made it “a land of opportunities for Emiratis and expats”, he says.

“Today, we are reaping the fruits of what late Shaikh Zayed sowed for us,” he adds.

The extraordinary vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has helped the UAE even reach space, he said. “We are proud of this achievement besides the many other achievements of the country on land and sea.”

Having previously worked as the head of the fisheries association in Umm Al Quwian, Humaid spends much of his time visiting the sea either alone or with his family. “I love the sea,” he says. “There are no words to express my feelings towards it ... the sea makes men of us.

“I wish all our countrymen and women as well as expatriates a very happy 48th National Day.”

— Aghaddir Ali, Senior Reporter


Saad Al Dhuhuri, in his 40s, from Shaam area of Ras Al Khaimah

Saeed Al Dhuhuri, an Emarati from Ras Al Khaima poses for the picture in Ras Al Khaima. (for UAE National day story) Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Despite the tremendous changes in lifestyle in the country, Al Dhuhuri is still proud and determined to continue working towards preserving the UAE’s heritage and its culture. It’s a priceless legacy that needs to be passed on to the coming generations, he says.

In 1995, he had established a heritage village on top of the Shaam mountain. Called the Mohammad Bin Rashid village for heritage, it contains ancient items dating back 300 years.

His father, who had a deep love for UAE’s heritage, had, before his death, asked him to always work towards preserving the heritage of their ancestors.

The village includes many old houses and tools used by the people of the mountains in the past and uses his long experience to teach the young generation about the most important customs, traditions and practices that they have been fortunate to inherit, such as the process of planting wheat and the preparation of flour using old tools.

He also organises trips for young people to teach them self-reliance and hone their endurance skills through climbing mountains, in addition to other values of morality.

The residents of the areas call him, “guardian of the UAE heritage”.

For Al Dhuhuri, the mountains are the most ideal place to head to spend quality time in communion with nature. He is proud to be an Emirati and the National Day, he says, is the happiest day for every UAE citizen.

“We are proud of this day,” he reiterates.

Late Shaikh Zayed, the Founding Father of the UAE, he says, grounded Emiratis in morals and values in addition to instilling in them qualities such as tolerance and respect for others — abiding values that have earned the UAE a place among the best countries in the world.

— Aghaddir Ali, Senior Reporter