'It all happened with determination': Emirati sailors reflect on UAE growth at Cop28

Elderly citizens have taken the time to educate future generations during the climate conference

Emirati sailors act as cultural ambassadors for the UAE at Cop28

Emirati sailors act as cultural ambassadors for the UAE at Cop28
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In the Green Zone at Cop28, elderly Emiratis have acted as cultural ambassadors to showcase the UAE's heritage and vision for a sustainable future.

Based in The House of Sustainability – set up in what was the UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020 – they have been hard at work to highlight the strength of local traditions.

Sitting down with The National at the conference, two Emirati sailors discussed what encouraged them to participate in Cop28 while noting how much the country has changed since its formation on December 2, 1971.

We used to drink water that had worms in it and eat dates that were two years old
Ahmed Al Hammadi

“Our Rulers encouraged us and supported us so we could come and teach the next generation, to protect our heritage from disappearing,” Ahmed Al Hammadi said.

He further explained how harsh life could be before the UAE's remarkable economic growth, adding: “In the past, if your cloth did not get wet and dirty from working, you would not be able to eat.

“We used to drink water that had worms in it and eat dates that were two years old, just to survive.”

Mr Al Hammadi has travelled to the Cop28 site every day, making the commute to Expo City from Abu Dhabi along with his student Fahad Al Ali.

Mr Al Ali explained how traditional Emirati fishing techniques are steeped in a culture of sustainability.

“All the things we use to catch our fish with were made from the environment,” he said.

“We still care about our past, because the past is our present.”

UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, had a mission to plant trees across the country.

Mr Al Ali reflected on how many saw this as an impossible goal at the time, yet Sheikh Zayed was determined to make the dream come true.

He spoke about how Sheikh Zayed encouraged his citizens to learn farming skills and, in later years, the results were clear.

In 1999, the total amount of agricultural land distributed in Abu Dhabi alone reached 2,335 plots.

“Our Rulers, they are the ones who planted the love of farming in us and we will continue to farm,” Mr Al Ali said.

Mr Al Hammadi said Sheikh Zayed “brought people from foreign lands and asked them to plant trees”.

“They said it was impossible but he made it possible. It all happened with determination,” he said.

Updated: December 12, 2023, 12:49 PM