2020 was going to be Dubai's year. The emirate's calendar was full of milestone events – both on Earth and in space – and it was set to be the year Dubai hosted one of the world's biggest events, that had been years in the making.
But everything changed for the emirate and its Ruler in March, once the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak began sweeping the country. And as the year comes to a close, each of the emirates have emerged strong with 2021 promising due to be a year to remember.
This year began with a glimpse of the country's historic space mission, which would go ahead in the summer. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, each signed the final piece of the Hope Probe, a spacecraft that would be launched from Japan six months later with course set for Mars.
Days later, Sheikh Mohammed juxtaposed that example of Dubai's modernity and technological advances with a visit to the historical Jumeirah Archaeological Site. Discovered in 1969, the site is from the Abbasid era, when it served as a caravan stop along a trading route connecting Iraq and Oman to India and China.
By the end of the month, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed were reunited to witness the signing of several Expo 2020 Dubai agreements and hear the announcement that the next annual Aqdar World Summit would be held at the world fair, which was due to begin in October.
The following month, the rulers of the Emirates gathered at Zayed Military City to pay tribute to the UAE Armed Forces who participated in the Arab coalition in Yemen. It was an immense display of unity and strength that the country would demonstrate again in a different way a month later, when the pandemic reached the Emirates.
On March 3, Sheikh Mohammed chaired the first UAE Cabinet meeting that reviewed the country's response to Covid-19. Cases had begun to rise with up to 100 reported per day. The Prime Minister commended health authorities for their efforts and the cabinet said they would continue to monitor developments.
The next month, the UAE Cabinet met online, with most of the country having begun work from home protocols weeks earlier. The ministers agreed to waive fines for expired visas, examined mental health laws and looked at how the country's industrial sector could aid the fight against Covid-19. Sheikh Mohammed spoke of the UAE working as "one team and co-operating like one family" during the "exception period the world is going through".
A three-day government meeting was held in May, when Sheikh Mohammed began turning his attentions to economic recovery and the country's priorities post Covid-19. He said part of the post-virus strategy would require a streamlining of government and merging of ministries.
"Anyone who thinks that the world after Covid-19 will be the same as the one before it is mistaken," he said.
By June, Sheikh Mohammed had resumed his public engagements with the launch of the New Media Academy, an online learning institute that aims to train the future workforce to be leaders in digital marketing.
He also visited Fish Farm, a home-grown business that produces thousands of fish each year in the heart of the Dubai desert. Sheikh Mohammed praised the team for bolstering the UAE's food security – a renewed national priority as a result of the outbreak.
In July, a metro project that connected the Expo 2020 site with the rest of the emirate was inaugurated by Sheikh Mohammed. The decision to postpone the expo for a year was made in May but construction remains on track to deliver a spectacular world fair at a time when it is safe for people to gather again.
In October, Sheikh Mohammed travelled to Kuwait to offer his condolences on the death of emir Sabah Al Ahmed, who the Dubai Ruler had previously commissioned a giant sand portrait of to mark the country's National Day.
The following month, he inaugurated the third phase of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park – the world's largest single-site solar energy park.
On November 30, Sheikh Mohammed attended a Commemoration Day ceremony at Wahat Al Karamah in Abu Dhabi. There he laid a wreath for the Armed Forces members who died in service of their country.
Two days later, he was back in Abu Dhabi to watch the Seeds of the Union show to celebrate the UAE's 49th National Day.
The remainder of the year has seen Sheikh Mohammed continue to look ahead, encouraging industry and development by first attending Gitex and then touring Hatta as part of a domestic tourism push.
Dubai Shopping Festival kicked off this month and tourism is beginning to show signs of recovery. Between that and the roll out of a vaccination campaign, 2021 promises to be one for the books.