2020 in review: UAE leadership's key moments – in pictures

Country's leaders continued to look forward as world grappled with Covid-19

Throughout one of the world's most challenging years, one message represented the UAE's ethos when tackling Covid-19 head on: "laat shiloon ham" or "don't worry".

It was a message delivered by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, as the country was faced with the pandemic and, as the months passed, the leadership proved time and time again why it deserved the people's confidence.

Prior to the outbreak, the UAE received a make-over with a new branding logo launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed. The logo would be used to promote national tourism and act as a symbol of the nation.

The logo was added to the Hope Probe – the UAE's first spacecraft launched with a course set for Mars in July. The landmark achievement was celebrated with a special ceremony hosted by members of the country's leadership at Qasr Al Watan on the team's return from the launch site in Japan.

In January, the UAE hosted a number of presidents and high-level officials who attended the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi.

The next month, Dubai had its turn hosting a global event with Ivanka Trump, daughter and adviser to US President Donald Trump, attending the Women's Forum. The emirate was only warming up for Expo 2020, which was set to begin in October but had to be postponed for a year because of the pandemic. Weeks prior to the Women's Forum, sheikhs from Abu Dhabi and Dubai inaugurated Al Wasl Plaza – known as the crown jewel of the world fair.

In February, most of the Emirate's rulers gathered in Abu Dhabi to welcome home and celebrate the UAE Armed Forces who took part in the Arab Coalition's work in Yemen. With the UAE flag fluttering above them and the sheikhs standing in a row, the image was reminiscent of one taken of the country's founding rulers at Union House in 1971.

The country's strength was on show again in February when the Arab Gulf Security 2 exercises were held in Dubai. Police and military forces from the GCC countries took part in the display. In October, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, would oversee a hostage crisis simulation training programme inside a Dubai metro cabin to ensure local forces were prepared for anything.

Covid-19 first emerged in the Emirates in late January, when a family of four from Wuhan, China, had the new virus – then an epidemic – diagnosed. By March, the UAE, anticipating rising cases, implemented work-from-home measures, closed its borders and began a nightly disinfection programme.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed met in Dubai to discuss the country's Covid-19 strategy and how to ensure food and medical supplies would never cease. It was then that Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed delivered his reassuring message to the public: "This time will pass. Medicine and nutrition are a red line for the Emirates ... We are not just living for today or tomorrow, we are living to secure the future of our grandchildren, not just our children. This is our duty... Do not worry".

By April, the country had begun opening field hospitals to ensure enough beds for patients or those isolating after becoming exposed to the virus.

The public had grown accustomed to safety measures including mandatary use of face masks when the UAE slowly began resuming certain economic activities.

A partial return to normality meant a return to regular business for the country's rulers. Each emirate resumed its push for increased development, tourism and economic activity. In Fujairah, the Ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, reviewed progress of the Dibba Fujairah Sports Club Stadium project while, in Sharjah, Ruler Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi toured Khor Fakkan's new amphitheatre. And in Dubai, work continued on the Museum of the Future as Sheikh Hamdan led a cycling event along Sheikh Zayed Road.

Diplomatic meetings and travel resumed and in August one of the most significant regional announcements was made – the UAE's decision to normalise relations with Israel. The agreement, known as the Abraham Accord, came in a joint call between Sheikh Mohamed, US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The following month, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, travelled to Washington, where he signed the agreement.

In November, Bahrain's King Hamad and King Abdullah II of Jordan visited the UAE for a summit aimed at bolstering deep-rooted ties between the three nations.

2020 was also the year the Gulf lost two long-standing and much-loved rulers with the UAE offering its condolences to the new Sultan of Oman on the death of Sultan Qaboos in January and the new emir of Kuwait following the death of the emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad in October.

The year ended with a reflection of how far the UAE has come with an atypical National Day celebration. Instead of the usual show with a packed stadium, the country's rulers gathered again in Abu Dhabi to watch Seeds of the Union – an artistic performance that charted the country's journey over the past 49 years. It served as a reminder of what could be achieved with enough vision and determination and showed that the UAE, as it enters its 50th year, is just getting started.

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