Dubai: “It was an unforgettable moment of euphoria for all of us,” reminisced Mohammad Hasan Ali Makki, 78, about having witnessed the formation of UAE at the Diyafa Guest House (now known as Union House) on December 2, 1971.
Makki, who recalled the momentous day sitting with his 16th grandchild, Abdullah, 6, in his villa in Jumeirah, said he was an executive with British Petroleum at the time.
“We were one family and became one country. From Abu Dhabi to Ras Al Khaimah, we always knew we were like one large extended family. With cousins living across these places, we would often meet.
"So when the late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Shaikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum held meetings in the run up to the big announcement, there was already great excitement in the air. When the leaders met and discussed these issues at Shaikh Rashid’s majlis in Bur Dubai, we would get to hear of it.
"The anticipation was building up. One day before some newspapers announced the event of the signing of the treaty and a big crowd gathered at Al Diyafa Guest House, there was no place to stand.
"The leaders emerged and I cannot forget that scene. They all stood tall and smiled and when the UAE flag was hoisted, we shouted with joy. The national anthem came later, and we felt the union in our souls,” said Makki.
Educated in Mumbai
Makki, educated in a Mumbai convent, belongs to a family of pearl traders.
“I was born in our family home near the Bank of Baroda in Bur Dubai. My father Hassan Makki was a prominent pearl trader then. When I was six, I moved to Mumbai to live with my uncle who was an established pearl trader in Byculla area in Mumbai. I joined St Mary’s School for Boys there. But my heart was in Dubai and I kept coming here for every vacation. As soon as I completed high school, I returned to Dubai and began working, first in BP and later in the Agricultural Ministry,” added Makki.
‘One people, one country’
“In those days if we had to go to Abu Dhabi we needed to present our passport. As an executive with BP, I had to travel between Dubai and Abu Dhabi frequently.
"It would take me at least three-and-a-half hours driving on a single track tar road to reach the border post of Abu Dhabi at Seh Ash Sheib after which we would have to stop there and show our passports. There would be long queues at immigration.
"If there was a tide, the roads would be flooded and that would take hours to clear. After that it was only several dirt tracks on which we had to drive. It was quite an ordeal. Most of us had families there, sisters were married there. Once the treaty was signed, we formalised what we felt in our hearts.
"We were one people, one country. It was like the proverbial tale of a father demonstrating how one stick could be broken easily but together as a bundle it was unbreakable. The UAE with all the emirates (Ras Al Khaimah joined 10 months later), was like this bundle .”
Feeling of pride
Makki feels the vision of Shaikh Zayed and Shaikh Rashid has been successfully translated by their successors. “Our country has only grown from strength to strength in the last 48 years. Earlier we had little water, no electricity and comprised of small dusty towns.
"But now when I look at the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Metro, the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the Sharjah Lagoon and several other landmarks, my heart fills with pride and how far we have come.
"My friends abroad always are curious to know about UAE and its fantastic progress. I feel proud that I belong to such a country and have been able to witness its transformation first hand in the last almost five decades.”