The audience at the opening ceremony for the Mother of the Nation Festival in Abu Dhabi on Monday night were treated to an impressive show. Viewers, including members of the ruling families and leaders from across the Emirates, watched at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre as so many of the ways that mothers influence the next generation were demonstrated.
On stage were children, seen learning a love of music and reading from their mothers. In another scene, children were taught traditional skills. And throughout the performance was the sense of how important the role of mothers is in supporting and encouraging a new generation in whatever they aim to do, as well as inculcating in them the values of their society.
The centrepiece of the event was the awarding by the President, Sheikh Khalifa, of the Zayed Medal to Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Mother of the Nation and widow of the UAE’s founding father Sheikh Zayed. It was right that these two events happened simultaneously, because the two are linked.
Sheikha Fatima has a big place in the heart of our country. We recall her tireless support and encouragement of Sheikh Zayed as he embarked on leading the UAE to federation, development and beyond. But Sheikha Fatima has also played a leading role wider afield, devoting her life to cultural, social and educational contributions.
In that way, Sheikha Fatima’s life and work mirrors that of mothers everywhere – a public life of contribution, but also a private life, a family life of quiet encouragement and support. Her sacrifices and her successes mirror those of mothers everywhere, who do the hardest job in the world and the most rewarding.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, talked about this in his poem Maker of Men, which he dedicated to Sheikha Fatima. “Closer than our souls to us you are/Mother to us all, indeed you are,” he wrote.
That is an apt sentiment for the way the nation feels, as well as for the aims of the Mother of the Nation festival. Because the festival is not only a celebration of Sheikha Fatima, the mother of the nation, but of all the mothers of the nation.