A place in all our hearts for ever
ABU DHABI //Thousands of citizens and residents gathered yesterday to pray for the soul of Sheikh Zayed, the founding President of the nation.
Mosques across the country urged worshippers to pray for him and to remember how his contribution propelled the country's prosperity and international standing. Emiratis sat shoulder to shoulder with their Muslim brothers and sisters from across the world.
They recited verses from the Quran and performed dua'a in memory of the man who was described by one worshipper as someone who has helped many "people all over the world".
In the early hours of Friday, Saeed Al Mansoori, who was born in Abu Dhabi, headed with his seven-year-old son Saif to meet his three brothers and their children, and distribute meat from five sheep.
It is something they do every year to help underprivileged families around the city in honour of the soul of Sheikh Zayed.
"He was our father," said Mr Al Mansoori, 31, a businessman. "He always had an open-door policy for us as Emiratis and for all the citizens of the world, which he passed on to his children and the current Rulers.
"This man's kindness cannot be repaid, therefore we will always hold him dear to our hearts."
Mr Al Mansoori said he and his brothers always tell their children about Sheikh Zayed and how the country developed because of him.
Ahmed Hussein, who has lived and worked in Abu Dhabi since the early years of the Emirates' union, yesterday prayed along with his son Hamad Hussein for the soul of the late founder.
"His soul will always be a part of the country and its people," said the businessman, who is in his 60s. "Sheikh Zayed's humanity has had far reaching effects that have touched every corner of the world."
Mr Hussein's son Hamad, 30, said that on a trip to Brazil a taxi driver spoke endlessly about the late President.
"I was shocked to hear the cab driver in Sao Paulo list to me Sheikh Zayed's sons and speak about the UAE," said Hamad Hussein, an administrator. "The country's reputation has reached people from every corner, as my father said."
Murtada Ibrahim from Sudan, who has lived in Abu Dhabi since 1995, said: "When I was a university student in Pakistan at the University of Karachi I saw the Sheikh Zayed Islamic Centre there, then I spotted another similar centre for Islamic research and fiqh in Peshawar, and then I saw a hospital built by him in Lahore.
"When a person performs such good things … this becomes an ongoing charity that will reflect upon his blessings long after he has passed," Mr Ibrahim told his son Ibrahim Murtada, who was sitting next to him at Abu Bakr Al Siddiq Mosque on Airport Rd in Abu Dhabi.
Ibrahim, 12, said: "He helped many people and built wells all over Africa and Asia as gifts for the people of those countries."
Although the Egyptian boy Mohammed Fawzi admitted he did not know much about the late founder, he said he admired Sheikh Zayed for what he had done for others.
"I was told that he was an exceptional person who always helped those who are in need," said Mohammed, 14. "I admire that."
Mohammed Jawed, from India, who moved to the UAE in 1986 as a fashion designer and tailor, reminisced on his meetings with Sheikh Zayed.
"In 1991, I met Sheikh Zayed while he was touring the city during Eid Al Adha," said Mr Jawed. "We were at the Corniche fountain and he came and took a tour around the fountain and greeted the people there."
Mr Jawed said that during the 1990s, Sheikh Zayed often toured the city and he met him four times. He still remembers where he was when he heard of the Ruler's death.
"It was Ramadan and a shock to us," he said. "We were sitting in the shopping district behind Etisalat and immediately went to the mosque where we prayed for his soul.
"I will always remember the great deeds he has done and how he has helped this country develop."
Published: August 20, 2011 04:00 AM