Sharjah: Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Media Council and member of the Sharjah Executive Council, said that the emirate made huge strides of development and progress during 2020, an extraordinary year.
The year began with His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, approving the annual budget on January 12, 2020. The 2020 budget was the largest ever in the emirate’s history, sanctioning total expenditures of Dh29.1 billion, a 2 per cent increase over the 2019 budget. Dr Sheikh Sultan followed it up by approving on December 27, 2020 the general budget of Dh33.6 billion for year 2021, a significant increase of 12 per cent over the year 2020.
Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi said: “The two budgets approvals were separated by 11 months and 7 days despite the fact that 2020 was a challenging year for the whole world in every sense of the word. And the biggest challenge turned out to be the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the Emirate of Sharjah as usual saw opportunities even in this crisis, and made the most of them by registering achievements at the local and international levels.”
Under the directives of Dr Sheikh Sultan, 2020 began with love when on January 5, 2020 he gifted Egypt 425 rare Egyptian artefacts from multiple eras, dating back to before and after Christ. “Sharjah also made use of disasters as an opportunity for promoting human compassion, and reached out to crisis-hit Lebanon through its campaign “Peace to Beirut” launched by Sheikha Jawaher Bint Muhammad Al Qasimi, the wife of the Ruler of Sharjah and President of the Big Heart Foundation,” he pointed out.
Sharjah also reached out to flood-hit Sudan through the Sharjah Charitable Society’s campaign titled “From Sharjah to Sudan, from goodness to loyalty”, which was launched under the directives of Dr Sheikh Sultan.
Under the directives of Dr Sheikh Sultan, the various entities and institutions of the emirate joined hands to successfully confront the Covid-19 challenge through a campaign titled ‘People First.’ “The Sharjah leadership moved fast to protect the Emirate and its various vital sectors, development projects as well as families from the economic impact of the pandemic. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of Sharjah Executive Council, granted exceptional leave to thousands of Sharjah government employees to work from home during the pandemic, especially allowing female employees with children to work from home,” stressed the Chairman of Sharjah Media Council.
Sharjah concluded the year 2020 with remarkable achievements and development projects in Khorfakkan. “Sultan’s Sharjah fortified the Emirate with shields of knowledge and turned stumbling blocks into bridges allowing everyone pursue progress,” he said.
During the year 2020, Dr Sheikh Sultan inaugurated as many as 25 major projects. The COVID-19 pandemic did not constitute an obstacle to the ambitions of the emirate, and its sustainable development plans.
The Emirate has taken a quantum leap by launching and implementing a host of development projects in various sectors across the emirate in areas such as education, culture, arts, astronomy, sports and entertainment, mosques, roads and infrastructure, environment, tourism, heritage and literature.
On January 29, Dr Sheikh Sultan inaugurated the new headquarters of the Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies, in the University City of Sharjah. It includes various facilities and halls that meet the scientific requirements of students and researchers in the financial and banking sector, aiming to prepare and qualify national cadres and leaders in the sector.
Al Shaheed Mosque
On February 17 Dr Sheikh Sultan inaugurated the Martyr Sultan Muhammad bin Huwaiden Al Ketbi Mosque in Al-Taybah area in Al Dhaid, in the presence of the sons and relatives of the martyr and the notables and people of the central region. The cost of the mosque amounted to Dh21.5 million and commemorates Sultan bin Muhammad bin Huwaiden Al-Ketbi, who was martyred in 2015 in the service of the nation and faith in Yemen.
On February 17, Dr Sheikh Sultan inaugurated the Al Dhaid Wildlife Centre. The centre is a new addition to the list of projects concerned with the environment, preserving biodiversity, wildlife and specialised educational centres, in a way that contributes in promoting the community environmental awareness. The centre is also one of the most important specialised sites that display wildlife pictures in an interactive and realistic manner, through a trip that provides visitors with the opportunity to learn about the desert and explore the wildlife in it.
Also on February 17, Dr Sheikh Sultan inaugurated the Al Wusta Canal Building from Al Dhaid, which consists of seven floors, and is unique in its design in an octagonal shape, according to the highest international standards and specifications, surrounded by green spaces characterising the Emirate of Sharjah.
Aljada Exploration Centre
On February 27, Dr Sheikh Sultan inaugurated the Aljada Exploration Centre within the Madar complex project located in Muwailah, Sharjah, on an area of more than 600,000 square feet. The centre includes 18 food outlets and a theatre for outdoor activities that can accommodate 500 people.
Dr Sheikh Sultan also inaugurated, on October 8, the Kalba Road extending from Wadi Al Hilu to Al Alam Square in the city with a length of 26km. It is one of the most prominent development, service and tourism projects adopted by the emirate to develop the city of Kalba, in a way that serves the city’s residents and visitors, and contributes to serving various vital sectors. The cost of the road was one billion dirhams.
Shees Park, Khorfakkan
On October 15, Dr Sheikh Sultan inaugurated the Shees Park in Khorfakkan, and is one of the prominent projects that encourage ecotourism, and is distinguished by its unique location between the embrace of tall mountains, and provides visitors and tourists with a unique tourism experience to discover the atmosphere of the mountainous regions and enjoying it.
Najd Al Maqsar
Dr Sheikh Sultan also inaugurated the Najd Al Maqsar Village, which is one of the most important ancient human gathering centres in the Wadi Washi, located within the scope of the historic city of Khorfakkan, as part of his endeavour to preserve the environment and to restore archaeological and historical areas turning them into distinguished tourist attractions.
The village includes 13 old houses dating back nearly a hundred years and the people at that time used it as a refuge from floods and torrents. According to archaeological studies, rocks engraved with drawings of camels and horses were found in the area of Washi, dating back 2000 years BC.
The Ruler of Sharjah also launched a qualitative environmental initiative, on October 15, which includes afforestation of a number of mountains located on the Sharjah-Khorfakkan road with fig trees, sebs, mays, and frankincense, which are commensurate with the nature of that region and naming the mountains after the trees planted on them.
The initiative aims at preserving the environment and ensuring its biodiversity and planting trees that are compatible with their natural habitat. Dr Sheikh Sultan’s environmental initiatives have contributed to enhance the preservation of a large number of endangered plants and animals, and their resettlement in their original places.
He chose to plant seedlings of figs, mez, Arabic frankincense and al Sqab trees with his own generous hands on the Khorfakkan Mountains.
Khorfakkan Heritage area
Dr Sheikh Sultan inaugurated on October 18 the Heritage area in Khorfakkan, which includes the Wadi Water Canal, which is 700 meters long and 5 meters wide, and is one of the most distinguished tourist attractions with its recreational activities for visitors.
Khorfakkan Literary Council
Complementing his vision for culture and human development, Dr Sheikh Sultan also inaugurated the Khorfakkan Literary Council, the most recent cultural monument in support of the cultural and literary movement in the city. The council will organise events, workshops, cultural seminars, poetry evenings, and forums that bring together writers and cultural leaders.
House of Poetry
On October 19, Dr Sheikh Sultan opened a House of Poetry in the heritage area of Khorfakkan, and the project aims to attract poets, intellectuals and writers. On October 19, he also inaugurated the Folk Poetry Centre in Khorfakkan. The centre will present cultural activities that enhance the cultural and literary aspects of the city. It will host poetry evenings, seminars and workshops that will have an impact on attracting fans of popular poetry, and preparing a generation of poets.
On October 21, Dr Sheikh Sultan inaugurated the Subaihiya District Council in Khorfakkan, which is distinguished by its modern and local urban style, as well as its spacious facilities that effectively meet the various social needs of the people and families.
Pomegranate mountain cultivation
On October 28, the Sharjah Ruler launched an environmental initiative of Mount Pomegranate in the city of Kalba, in continuation of Dr Sheikh Sultan’s efforts to preserve the mountainous environment. It involves afforestation and plantation of trees that correspond to their environmental components and naming the mountains after the trees planted in them. Dr Sheikh Sultan planted seedlings of pomegranate trees with his generous hands.
He also inaugurated, on October 28, the Kalba Commercial Centre. The centre features world-class shopping outlets and services to the people and visitors of the city. The centre will provide support to various economic sectors and provide investment opportunities that support the commercial sector in the city.
On November 2, Dr Sheikh Sultan inaugurated the Khorfakkan Club for the Disabled in the Al Jaradiyah area off the Western Ring Road, Khorfakkan. The building includes a multi-use gymnasium on an area of 2,700 meters, a physiotherapy hall, a pool, thermal and steam rooms, an integrated medical clinic, and a physiotherapy unit. It includes a fitness hall on an area of 180 meters and is equipped with fitness equipment, weightlifting, walking and running, in addition to administrative offices, a mosque, and meeting rooms.
The club includes an outdoor football field on an area of 7,500 metres. The club’s facilities also include 65 parking spaces for people with disabilities, 83 public parking spaces, and 11 bus stops.
Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Complex
On November 17, Dr Sheikh Sultan inaugurated the headquarters of the Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Complex in the presence of Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre “Sheraa” and a number of members of the board of directors.
North pasture project
On November 29, Dr Sheikh Sultan inaugurated the first phase of the North Pasture Project in the city of Al Dhaid, the largest pasture in the emirate with an area of 11 sq km. Dr Sheikh Sultan also opened the visual identity of the Sharjah pastures, which consisted of a green ring inside which sand dunes topped by the Thamam plant.
He planted a number of plants in the pasture, calling for the need to pay attention to agriculture and the preservation of plant wealth, in addition to the existing interest in livestock.
House of Wisdom
Dr Sheikh Sultan inaugurated on December 9 the House of Wisdom complex. He was accompanied by Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq). The House of Wisdom is an innovative cultural project that embodies the latest model of future libraries in the world, and celebrates Sharjah’s crowning as the 2019 World Book Capital by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).
Dr Sheikh Sultan inaugurated on December 14 the Khorfakkan Amphitheatre. It is the latest development project located in the heart of the mountains overlooking the Khorfakkan beach, designed in the historical Roman style, mixed with the Islamic architecture rich in its elements and details.
The amphitheatre represents a prominent artistic addition to the cultural landmarks in the Emirate, as it was built at the foot of Jabal Al-Sayed facing the city’s beach.
On December 14, the Sharjah Ruler inaugurated the Khorfakkann Waterfall building. The concrete building, which was built out of the rocky mountains of Khorfakkan, and overlooks the Corniche, to form one of the most prominent tourist and entertainment additions to the tourist scene in Khorfakkan.
Abu Bakr Mosque
On December 20, Dr Sheikh Sultan inaugurated the Abu Bakr Al Siddique Mosque in Khorfakkan, which was built on the expense of Sheikha Sheikha Bint Muhammad Al Qasimi, and on an area of 1860 square meters, according to the modern architectural style mixed with the heritage character. The mosque accommodates 1250 worshippers and consists of a ground floor in addition to the mezzanine as the women’s prayer hall.
The Quran Complex
Complementing his vision to encourage people on the path of the tolerant Islamic Sharia and to celebrate the teachings of Holy Quran and its sciences, on December 24, the Sharjah Ruler inaugurated the Holy Quran Complex in Sharjah. The complex includes museums containing valuable manuscripts of the Holy Quran, and other rare masterpieces. They were collected from different countries of the world throughout the ages. It is the largest complex of the Holy Quran in the world.
Sharjah Cultural Project
The Sharjah Cultural Project led by Dr Sheikh Sultan has been growing from strength to strength year on year. Dr Sheikh Sultan continues to guide new generations by supporting initiatives like the Sharjah Book Fair, putting young poets on the right path, supporting the book industry and publishing houses, in addition to enriching the cultural field with many of his own books, which this year included “The Inquisition” and “The Historical Dictionary of the Arabic Language.” This is in addition to translating Dr Sheikh Sultan ’s books into other languages so that the world could learn about history.
Sharjah Prize for Poetic Criticism
On January 7, Dr Sheikh Sultan announced the establishment of the Sharjah Prize for Literary Poetic Criticism, devoted to studies concerned with poetic criticism, in addition to its role in critiquing the poems of young poets and evaluating their poetic creations. The award comes within the framework of Dr Sheikh Sultan’s keenness to promote everything that would serve Arabic poetry and elevate poets and poetic talents, especially among the young generation.
Arab Excellence Award
On January 29, Dr Sheikh Sultan was honoured by the League of Arab States by presenting him with the prestigious Arab Excellence Award for supporting poetic creativity and for his leadership role and lasting support for Arabic poetry and poets in the Arab world.
Sultan’s plays ‘Minhaja’
On February 12, Poland’s University of Krakow chose four plays of Dr Sheikh Sultan Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi for translation and for the purpose of study and expanding access to his publications.
This interest in the theatrical writings of Dr Sheikh Sultan stemmed from the fact that he employed the well-known historical figures such as the Nimrod in ancient Babylon, to practice projections on contemporary life in the Arab world and Asia, as well as in the plays of Hulagu and the mighty Samson.
Dr Sheikh Sultan received on March 5 an honorary doctorate in drama from the Sudan University of Science and Technology, in recognition of his contributions to the theatre movement and his adoption of many cultural initiatives that have contributed to strengthening the role of theatre in the Arab world.
Inquisition and Andalusia
On August 4, Al Qasimi Publications published the book “Inquisition ... An Investigation of Twenty-Three Files for Cases Against Muslims in Andalusia” by the Ruler of Sharjah. The book was published in both Arabic and Spanish versions. The book deals with the secret courts, which practised execution and burning, and persecution of Muslims. The book is based on the research and investigation of 23 manuscripts in the form of original trial files.
Sharjah Book Authority
The Sharjah Book Authority recorded a new history and great success, by organising the first international exhibition during the COVID-19 period, when it held the 39th edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair, from 4 to 14 November, at the Expo Centre Sharjah, under the slogan “The World Reads From Sharjah”. More than 1,024 Arab and foreign publishers took part with strict social distancing and precautionary measures.
On November 5, Dr Sheikh Sultan released the first volumes of the “Historical Dictionary of the Arabic Language”. The largest knowledge project of the nation, which for the first time dates the history of the vocabulary of the language of Dhad and the changes in its use over 17 centuries, starting from the pre-Islamic era, the Islamic era from 1-132 AH and all the way down To the modern era from 1214 AH until today.
Continuing his approach of supporting the book industry and publishing houses even during the pandemic, Dr Sheikh Sultan directed, on November 7, to allocate Dh10 million to acquire the latest publications of the publishing houses participating in the Sharjah International Book Fair, and to provide Sharjah public and government libraries with the latest intellectual and literary publications.
Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi
On November 24, Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi was appointed President of the International Publishers Association, starting with its next business cycle for 2021. This is the first time an Arab woman has assumed the presidency of the federation since its founding in 1896, and only the second woman in the world.
Khorfakkan, the film
Dr Sheikh Sultan witnessed the film, Khorfakkan, produced by the Sharjah Broadcasting Authority, on December 14, at the new Khorfakkan Amphitheatre, celebrating the resistance of the region to the Portuguese Invasion. It reflected the heroics of the people of Khorfakkan in confronting the Portuguese invasion that swept the region in 1507, as part of the campaign led by the Portuguese naval general Alfonso de Albuquerque, as he recounts the city’s biography over 27 years.
The historical film Khorfakkan was premiered after the opening of the Amphitheatre. The film narrated the details of the events that accompanied the morning of the September 21, 1507, after the appearance of the Portuguese fleet, who at that time included six ships commanded by General Albuquerque, accompanied by a group of nobles, chasing a local boat “Sanbok” trying to flee north towards “Hormuz”. The historical epic, which took two years to produce.
Peace for Beirut
Sheikha Jawaher bint Muhammad Al Qasimi on August 10 initiated through her Twitter account the “Peace for Beirut” campaign, aiming to provide urgent relief to the victims of the tragic explosion that struck the Lebanese capital, Beirut, on August 4.
The campaign provided housing, food and treatment in coordination with the emergency committees and the competent local authorities, and included participation in removing rubble, assessing damage to buildings and property, identifying requirements for restoration, and providing solutions to lighting, sanitation and public safety challenges.
Insurance and guarantee
Dr Sheikh Sultan, on January 27, announced the universality of health insurance for all citizens of the emirate, after it had covered employees and the elderly from 60 years and above. Dr Sheikh Sultan announced the establishment of a social security fund to support every citizen to help him/her live a decent life.
Dr Sheikh Sultan directed on January 30 that 2,984 homes be exempted from the fees for connecting sewage services, and that the government shall bear the internal delivery fees of Dh45.5 million. The exempted houses included 1,464 in Al-Ramtha and Al Quoz areas, at a cost of Dh19.5 million and 1520 homes in 11 districts of Kalba city, at a cost of about Dh26 million.
Umm Al Quwain Theatre
Dr Sheikh Sultan, on November 7, undertook the construction of a new building for the Umm Al Quwain Theatre. His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Rashid Al Mualla, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Umm Al Quwain, had ordered to allocate a plot of land for its construction.
Dr Sheikh Sultan fully furnished and equipped the building after the completion of its construction, in addition to allocating a deposit for the benefit of the Umm Al Quwain National Theatre Board of Directors.
On November 8, Dr Sheikh Sultan, exempted Lebanese publishing houses participating in the 39th edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair from the stand rental fees. Dr Sheikh Sultan ’s decision came as a continuation of the support that the Emirate pledged to Lebanon’s libraries and publishing houses following the bombings that affected the port of Beirut on August 4, and the exemptions amounted to Dh640,000.
On November 9, Dr Sheikh Sultan directed that all publishing houses participating in the 39th edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair be exempted from the pavilion rent fees incurred for their participation in the exhibition. Dr Sheikh Sultan perceived the need to support them in light of what the world is witnessing on account of the Corona pandemic.
The value of the exemptions amounted to Dh6 million, and for the participating publishing houses it came as a huge relief. With this support, the Sharjah International Book Fair became the first international exhibition, which exempted publishing houses completely from their participation fees.
In implementation of the directives of Dr Sheikh Sultan, aiming to provide a stable life and decent living for his citizens, the Sharjah Citizens Debt Resolution Committee approved, on November 19, Dh14 million dirhams to pay in 46 cases.
In implementation of the directives of Dr Sheikh Sultan, the Sharjah Land Allocation Committee approved on 19 November, 707 applications for granting residential lands to citizens in the emirate.
A saga of endurance and solidarity was written by the Emirate’s institutions in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic. The world at large has been hit by the Coronavirus pandemic. Global markets have been massively hit, and key sectors in most countries have been adversely affected. Indeed, life almost stopped in countries with the bodies of victims accumulating in the streets.
However, the pandemic has not slowed down the pace of development in any of the Emirate’s sectors that are resilient and in a state of readiness to face all kinds of emergencies, crises and disasters.
The virus that has hit the world encountered a veritable fortress in Sharjah. The emirate has been made resilient under the leadership of Dr Sheikh Sultan in terms of scientific advancement, knowledge and technology, and alternative plans.
It follows a road map in which development proceeds at a steady pace, according to the directions of Dr Sheikh Sultan and the concerted efforts of all entities and institutions of the emirate. Sharjah launched many initiatives in which it secured human safety, by harnessing technology, automating businesses and offering education remotely under the new circumstances. It has supported both government and private entities, business sectors and individuals with incentives amounting to Dh993 million, in addition to the generosity of Dr Sheikh Sultan to support families and sectors.
In the interest of the safety of citizens and residents, his concern for Sharjah government employees and their families, and his relentless efforts to ensure their safety and well-being, Dr Sheikh Sultan directed on March 23 that all government institutions and departments adopt the remote work system for all employees, except for those whose duties require their presence at workplace.
Tablets for schoolchildren
As part of the continuing efforts to confront the repercussions of the Coronavirus and to maintain the continuation of the wheel of development, Sharjah Charitable Society, in cooperation with the Sharjah Educational District, the Sharjah Education Council and the Special Education Authority, announced, on March 23, that it has provided 3,500 smart tablets at a cost of Dh3.5 million to needy schoolchildren.
The Charity acted as soon as it learnt it was difficult for many families to provide tablets for their children to make use of the distance education initiative.
Discount in electricity bills
On March 24, Dr Sheikh Sultan directed Sharjah Electricity, Water and Gas Authority to provide 10 per cent on electricity bills owed by all consumers in the Emirate for a period of 3 months, to the tune of more than Dh230 million, to facilitate them in the circumstances facing the world.
Dh993 million in incentives
Following the directives of Dr Sheikh Sultan, Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of the Sharjah Executive Council, on March 31 announced a package of incentives to the tune of Dh481 million to support government and private entities, businesses, and individuals. The package was aimed at boosting the economic development in the Emirate and mitigate the effects of the Covid-19. On November 3, the government announced a second package of incentives to the tune of Dh512 million, bringing the total incentives to Dh993 million.
National sterilisation campaign
Taking on the global Coronavirus challenge, the national sterilisation teams in the city of Sharjah put in more than half a million work hours in the massive sterilisation campaign. Conducted by more than 1,200 engineers and workers, the campaign included sterilisation of all residential and industrial areas of Sharjah City, including streets, tunnels and other public areas. It covered the city by 100 per cent following systematic and studied plans daily, on weekly and monthly basis, using more than 85 million litres of sterilises and world-class tools and mechanisms.
The Sharjah City Municipality concluded the sterilisation campaign, with the participation of Sharjah Police, the General Administration of Sharjah Civil Defence, the Sharjah Environment Company “Bee’ah” and the Sharjah Charitable Society, and with the cooperation of all the authorities and institutions of the Emirate, on June 28.
The campaign concluded with 200 vehicles spraying the whole city with 10 varieties of scents and celebrating the heroes of sterilisation campaign and thanking Dr Sheikh Sultan Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi for his effective leadership.
New Year begins with optimism and hope
Year 2020 has finally departed wrapping up an eventful year that was defined by the Emirate’s achievements. Dr Sheikh Sultan inaugurated dozens of economic, developmental and cultural projects, underscoring his visionary and positive leadership. In Year 2021, Sharjah continues its triumphant march guided by the vision of a benevolent Ruler. The new year begins on a note of optimism and hope for the future, marking a new beginning for the continuing journey of development and progress.