Fallen UAE pilot’s friends raise money for mosque in his honour

First Lt Pilot Saif Khalaf Saif Al Zaabi, who died last week during a military training exercise in Cairo, was fondly remembered by friends and family.
Grandmother Umm Khalifa, Abdullah Khalaf and his mother Umm Khaled mourn the death of First Lt Pilot Saif Khalaf Saif Al Zaabi, who died last week during a military exercise in Cairo. Sarah Dea / The National
Grandmother Umm Khalifa, Abdullah Khalaf and his mother Umm Khaled mourn the death of First Lt Pilot Saif Khalaf Saif Al Zaabi, who died last week during a military exercise in Cairo. Sarah Dea / The National

A fundraising campaign has been launched to build a mosque in memory of First Lt Pilot Saif Khalaf Saif Al Zaabi, who died last week during a military exercise in Cairo.

Five of Al Zaabi’s friends and relatives came up with the idea in response to his own wishes.

“He was the most kind and loyal friend that anyone could have. This is the least we can do for him. He was always helpful and he never let anyone down,” said Khaled Al Bloushi, 26.

“He called me on the same day of his death at about 3pm and we spoke for almost three minutes. I will never forget his voice. Even if he is far away, nothing can stop him from being there all the time.”

Mr Al Bloushi said the mosque project was launched to honour their 26-year-old friend’s soul and fulfil his desire.

“We hope to collect an amount of money that would allow us to build a mosque that can accommodate 300 worshippers under his name in Kalba, the place where he was born and raised.”

Saleh Issa, another friend, said he could not stop thinking of Al Zaabi’s smile.

“He used to smile all the time. He stood by us in difficult times, helped and supported each and every one of us and whatever we do it’s still not enough,” he said.

“His passion was to serve his own country and he prayed that he would die as a martyr one day.”

Mr Issa, 29, said that on Al Zaabi’s last visit home he gathered his friends for lunch.

“He had his own style of linking us all together. He never loved to connect through social media and preferred doing phone calls and face-to-face meetings,” he said.

“Friends came from all around the Emirates to give condolences. This is proof of his unique character and pure soul.”

While his family grieved their loss, his mother said she had a premonition this would happen.

“We received the tragic news of his death on Wednesday at around 10.30 [pm],” said Umm Khaled, Al Zaabi’s mother.

“I wasn’t surprised at all. I knew that this would happen. I had a very strong sense that I could lose him anytime now.

“He was the joy of my heart, so pure and almost perfect. The kind that God could take him away from all this corrupted life to keep him safe. He used to put a smile on our faces. He had just had a daughter and he only saw her once. His loss broke my heart. But I’m proud that he died as a martyr as he always wanted. He will be deeply missed and definitely life will change after him.”

His grandmother, Umm Khalifa, 75, also said she would miss him.

“His death affected us all,” she said. “May God protect his wife and daughter. Saif now is in good hands and I’m so proud of him.”

Al Zaabi had four brothers and three sisters.

His sister Fatima, 29, said her brother was kind and gentle and more like a friend.

Al Zaabi graduated from Khalifa bin Zayed Aviation College in 2010 and joined the military afterwards.

He married last year and his daughter was called Shaikha, in honour of his mother.

First Lt Pilot Abdullah Ali Al Hamoudi, from Fujairah, and two Egyptians also died in the plane crash.

Donations for the mosque project can be made at any branch of Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank to account no. 25703609.

rhaza@thenational.ae

Published: December 22, 2014 04:00 AM

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