When Sheikh Zayed passed away on the 19th day of Ramadan 10 years ago today, most Emiratis had a story about a connection or contact they had with the founder of the nation. Sheikh Zayed was a humble man and, while he recognised the importance of palaces and ceremony in his position as head of state, he was always most comfortable among his own people, living the simple life of the desert and the sea.
The photographs and quotations in the supplement in today’s newspaper illustrate this. They show a man who, even before the oil began to flow, even before he assumed responsibility for the country, when he was the Ruler’s Representative in the Eastern region, tried to do the best he could for his people.
Afterwards, when Sheikh Zayed became the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and then, later, the founder and first President of the United Arab Emirates, he had more resources and greater power, but his vision of using the wealth of the country to serve the people remained the same.
Ten years have passed since Sheikh Zayed passed away. In that time, many young Emiratis have grown up and many more have been born. Those who remember and worked with Sheikh Zayed are still with us, but, in time, those links will pass away. That is why it is important to maintain the memories and motivations of Sheikh Zayed in building the country, so that those who inherit and develop it stay true to his original vision.
The legacy of inspirational leaders like Sheikh Zayed continues; their inspiration survives their death. They inspire both those who worked with them, such as Sheikh Zayed’s closest confidant, his eldest son and now president Sheikh Khalifa, and also those who only hear the story of their life. All of the current leaders of the UAE – Sheikhs Khalifa, Mohammed bin Rashid, Mohammed bin Zayed and the rulers of the other emirates – worked closely with Sheikh Zayed and were influenced by him.
The task now is to ensure that those who did not meet the founder understand him and his motivations. That his story is passed on to a new generation of Emiratis, those who did not know him but who, through discovering his life and his example, can help lead the nation he founded in his image and through his inspiration.