A symbol of the UAE and their family’s achievements: What the flag means for these Emiratis

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Jessica Hill

On National Flag Day, people all over the UAE will be celebrating the achievements of this country by waving the UAE flag. But for these three Emiratis, the national flag holds particular significance, not just as a symbol of their country but as a symbol of their own – or their family’s – achievements. Here, they explain why they will be flying the flag proudly today and what it represents for them.

Noora Al Mulla, 27, is the marketing projects manager for Etihad Airways. In March, she took her flag when she walked 140 kilometres across the sand dunes from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi, as part of the annual Women’s Heritage Walk.

“I chose to bring my flag with me on the walk because we were a lot of different nationalities together doing the trek, and it was a nice chance for all of us to showcase our countries.

“The walk definitely connected me to more to my ancestral heritage. I was really surprised to hear that my own family had done this journey not that long ago. My aunt called me during the walk, just after we’d run into one of the biggest storms in 30 years, and said: ‘What are you doing? Are you crazy? You know that we had camels with us – you’re not supposed to walk the entire distance!’

“The picture of me with the flag shows me feeling elated because we’d just done the final stretch. The last distance is always the hardest when you’re hiking, mentally you know that you’re just five minutes away but those five minutes feel like an hour. I was really exhausted. Having the UAE flag with me meant a lot to me. It gave me a sense of joy, pride, identity and strength.

“For me the flag means unity. The more united we are, the better outcomes we have. In this picture, the flag also represents the unity I felt with the expats I was with on our walk through the desert.”

Saeed Al Memari, a 39-year-old mountaineer from Fujairah, has raised the UAE flag at the top of 52 of the world’s highest peaks – including Mount Everest (twice), the seven summits, and the North and South poles.

“When I first reached the summit of Everest in 2011, I remember feeling very proud to get this chance to raise the flag as the first UAE national on the top of the world’s highest mountain. I was crying and at the same time laughing with happiness.

“My next plan is to climb the highest peak in every country – 246 countries around the world. I will take my flag with me, this is the most important thing, along with my picture of Sheikh Khalifa, which I always carry with me when I’m climbing.

“When I scaled the seven summits, I took a picture of each of the Rulers of the seven Emirates with me up each peak.

“I also always put my gutra on my head when I’m climbing, so everyone knows me as a UAE national.”

Hamdan Al Maainah, 27, is the son of Abdullah Mohammad Al Maainah, the man who designed the UAE flag in 1971. His father is now Ambassador of the UAE in Santiago, Chile, in South America, and Al Maainah is a manager at Etihad Airways.

“In 1971, my father was a 19-year-old student who saw a newspaper ad to try out designing a flag for the new country of the UAE, which had just formed. More than 1,000 people who submitted their designs, and my father was one of them.

“The colours he chose symbolised things he felt were important for the country – red is for sacrifice, green for prosperity and goodness, white meaning peace and black meaning abundance and a strong land.

“They chose six designs and those six went to the assembly of the union. My dad didn’t even know his design had been chosen until the official day the flag was raised, on December 2, 1971. When Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan raised the flag for the first time in Dubai – my father was there to see it.

“The flag means a lot to me. Our culture is very rich and our population very small, so we try to hang on to different aspects of our culture – the flag is a great part of that.”