His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, with dignitaries at the celebration held at Sharjah Book Authority on Saturday

Forty years have passed since the establishment of the Emirates Writers Union, a journey marked by ebbs and flows, challenges and triumphs. Throughout this time, the union has surmounted numerous obstacles, thanks to the unwavering support and visionary guidance of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, who also serves as the Honorary President of the union and the esteemed mentor of writers.

On Saturday, national authors celebrated Emirati Writer’s Day under the patronage and with the honorable presence of Dr. Sheikh Sultan. As is customary, he addressed a gathering of writers and emerging authors with a speech brimming with affection and profound insights into knowledge and science.

Addressing the gathering, Dr. Sheikh Sultan offered advice and guidance, emphasising the role of the committed intellectual. Referring to France’s era of enlightenment and its influential writers and thinkers like as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Emile Zola, he underlined their significant role in cementing culture as an inherent component of society, impervious to bargaining and manipulation. He further stressed the importance of culture in illuminating the path for society and its individuals.

Dr Sheikh Sultan provided an example of the profound influence of intellectuals in France’s history, underscoring their contribution to transforming the focus and methodology of Sorbonne University from an institution solely teaching religion to one offering diverse fields of science and literature. “We are witnessing a societal power capable of driving change within the community, and that power lies with the intellectuals,” Dr. Sheikh Sultan said.

The Ruler of Sharjah highlighted the concept of culture as a means of empowerment and advancement in science, literature, and the arts. He then delved into the history of intellectual and literary influence in societies, beginning with Britain in 1613 AD and the emergence of the renowned writer William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare's literary works in theatre and novel caused a significant impact, setting England apart from the rest of Europe during the cultural renaissance. This period, marked by the contributions of great literary figures like Shakespeare and scientist Isaac Newton, lasted about a century and earned the title "The Age of Enlightenment," contrasting with the Dark Ages that plagued Europe. Afterwards, influenced by England, various European nations started to embrace science, culture, and the arts.

Recalling my memories, the event takes me back to the early 1980s when Sharjah became home for what is now called civil society organisations, including associations for public welfare, theatre, fine arts, and notably the Writers Union. By providing the necessary infrastructure for culture—such as headquarters, theatres, and halls—Sharjah enabled these associations to have a strong cultural presence. This movement was led by a group of artists and writers who realised the importance of culture and hoped for a better tomorrow.

During the same period, the early signs of establishing a Writers Union began to emerge. We held founding meetings at the headquarters of associations that were established before the Writers Union such as the Sociological Association and the Jurists Association. After two years of efforts, we succeeded in formally establishing the Union in 1984. We set up our headquarters in an apartment, where we conducted meetings, activities and literary gatherings.

Later, in a meeting with His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, who was keen to meet us like a father, we met him in his palace overlooking the sea. After usual paternal conversation, he pointed towards the market area and said, "I will build a building there, which it will house the headquarters of the Union, and its proceeds will finance the Union and its activities."

However, that plan evolved as the Sheikh decided to build the Al Qasba Canal instead. He granted the Union a permanent headquarters there. Since then, the Union has continued to receive unwavering support and guidance from Sheikh Sultan.

Many events have transpired since the early days of the Writers Union, yet it has remained resilient, standing tall like a palm tree despite the challenges it has faced. In the nurturing embrace of Sharjah, Sheikh Sultan has transformed the emirate into a cultural jewel, an oasis of art, a university of science, a centre for studies, and a treasure trove of museums and libraries.

Sharjah's book fairs have gained a global reputation, rivaling those of well-known international book capitals. Cultural contributions have grown year after year, and it is our good fortune as writers of the 1980s to be witnesses and participants in this flourishing era- the era of Sultan, who ignited the flame of culture, and the light continues to shine brightly. May Allah bless Sheikh Sultan and grant him good health and peace of mind.