Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Abu Dhabi: Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s Founding Father, relied on his grand vision, wisdom and unflinching hard work in building a thriving and vibrant nation — a task which came with many challenges given a highly unstable regional environment.

Shaikh Zayed’s vision and untiring efforts took the UAE from being a sparsely populated desert settlement to a nation with dizzying records of achievements and prosperity, enabling the UAE to be counted among the most dynamic countries in the world in a record time.

Sunday, May 6, was the 100th birth anniversary of Shaikh Zayed. The year 2018 was declared the Year of Zayed to mark 100 years since the birth of the founding father.

At the heart of the UAE’s spectacular achievements that allowed the country to assume a position of pre-eminence regionally and internationally lies the vision of one man — Shaikh Zayed.

Shaikh Zayed was a man who gave to his country and the world without expecting anything in return and who translated every good thing he knew into action.

Shaikh Zayed, the Ruler of Abu Dhabi from 1966, and UAE President from the formation of the federation on December 2, 1971, till his death in 2004, was widely loved and respected as a benevolent Arab and world statesman, who believed in unity and compassion and determined that humanitarian assistance should be extended to people around the globe, regardless of race, sex, language or religion.

Shaikh Zayed’s vision always extended beyond the borders of the UAE and prioritised moral values, as reflected in his untiring support for charity and philanthropy.

On Saturday, President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, ordered bonuses for all government employees.

“The UAE, its people and all those who love the UAE are celebrating the 100th birth anniversary of the late Shaikh Zayed, which falls on May 6, 2018,” Shaikh Khalifa said.

Shaikh Bin Bayyah, who worked alongside Shaikh Zayed in his noble cause for helping the needy around the world and also accompanied Shaikh Zayed to many Arab summits and global events, said that the Founding Father was loved and cherished not only by his people but also by the peoples of the world because of his good deeds and generosity.

Shaikh Bin Bayyah said that Shaikh Zayed’s legacy upheld Islam’s true tenets of peace and tolerance.

The Year of Zayed will feature a series of events and initiatives in the UAE and internationally designed to commemorate the memory of Shaikh Zayed and showcase his impact and legacy, and promote the values that he upheld throughout his life in creative and interactive ways.

Dr Mohammad Mokhtar Juma Mabrouk, Egypt’s minister of Awqaf (Endowments), paid tribute to the “founding father and leading philanthropist.” He said the day would “commemorate Shaikh Zayed’s true belief in peaceful co-existence among peoples of the world and his respect of the man irrespective of race, creed or gender.”

Dr Yousuf Al Hassan, a leading Emirati political analyst, said Shaikh Zayed believed that the country’s wealth from oil and gas should be devoted to building a prosperous and advanced country and assisting less fortunate countries and individuals.

He added that Shaikh Zayed’s humanitarian work and development assistance were dedicated for the good of people around the world, regardless of their race or religion.

Year-long celebrations

The year-long celebration across the country and beyond of the late president’s life highlights his role in establishing the UAE and his achievements for tolerance, peace and progress. Since the start of the year, the Founder’s Office said it had received more than 600 proposals to mark the year.

Abu Dhabi saw last month the opening of one of the most visible commemorations — The Founder’s Memorial, a park to learn about Shaikh Zayed through art, nature, words, stories, and multimedia experiences and an installation of 1,327 geometric shapes suspended from 1,110 cables that form a three-dimensional profile of Shaikh Zayed.

The story of Shaikh Zayed is being narrated in a 100 minutes and through 100 films by the National Archives, to honour the Founding Father’s values and achievements. The Founding Father was also named Personality of the Year at Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

During the Mother of the Nation festival on Abu Dhabi Corniche, 500 drones lit up the sky in celebration of the Year of Zayed.

Other initiatives featured Emirates landing six of its special ‘Year of Zayed’ livery aircraft on six continents for the May 6 centennial of the UAE’s Founding Father, and Etihad launching a ‘Young Aviators Programme’ to inspire children to become pilots. The airline also has a branded freighter aircraft to carry out humanitarian missions, and also unveiled a Year of Zayed-themed plane.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, pinned a Year of Zayed badge to a carpet seller who had refused to sell his portrait of Shaikh Zayed to a visitor.

Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, honoured the family of Katsuhiko Takahashi, a Japanese architect, who helped shape Abu Dhabi’s wide roads, Corniche and greenery.

Shaikh Abdullah met Dr Takahashi’s children and grandchildren in Tokyo in Japan to honour their father’s contribution to the UAE as part of the Year of Zayed.