It was a simple two-minute video featuring an unassuming, barefoot carpet seller clutching his prayer beads – but it has made an unwitting internet star of Musa Khan.
At the last count, more than 1.4 million people had watched him steadfastedly refusing to sell a woven tapestry portrait of Sheikh Zayed to an Emirati customer in a YouTube video which went viral. “This picture has been here for 25 years,” he told the man who visited his carpet shop in Mina Zayed, Abu Dhabi. “I won’t sell it, even if you give me Dh100,000.”
Last week he was rewarded for his loyalty with a visit from Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, who pinned a Year of Zayed badge to the lapel of the somewhat bewildered and overwhelmed Mr Khan and praised him for being a perfect example of the UAE's model of co-existence and tolerance.
There is nothing unusual in Mr Khan’s story. It is a tale of migration representative of millions like him, who come to the UAE in search of a better life and make it their home.
Mr Khan’s father Abdul Khader had moved to Abu Dhabi from Afghanistan 40 years earlier and worked hard to establish himself, selling carpets from a dilapidated hut made of palm trees and eventually bringing his 11 children to join him.
He was rewarded when Sheikh Zayed, a frequent visitor to the souqs, ordered bricks-and-mortar outlets to be built in 1994 for the dedicated souq workers who stood selling their wares, whatever the weather.
That reciprocal appreciation fostered a lifelong love of the UAE in Mr Khan senior, who ordered a special carpet to be made in Turkey with Sheikh Zayed’s sepia-tinged portrait woven upon it in silk thread and hung it in pride of place over the doorway of his Al Safa shop.
The Khans’ refusal to sell the tapestry and their love for a nation which might not have been their birthplace but has given them opportunities to flourish and succeed is both uplifting and inspiring. Sheikh Zayed valued giving over taking and the Khans have embraced that philosophy wholeheartedly.
As the Crown Prince said, it is people like them who have helped shape the UAE and upon whose shoulders rests the nation’s aspiration of a peaceful co-existence. They set an example for us all.