On Monday, nine extraordinary individuals where awarded for their contributions towards building and supporting the community in Abu Dhabi.
This year, the awards joined the nation in commemorating 2018 as the Year of Zayed in recognition and gratitude of the legacy, values and principles of the nation’s founding father, Sheikh Zayed.
In a ceremony held in a Sea Palace Barza, Sheikh Mohammed honoured the award recipients and congratulated them for inspiring selfless generosity and kindness, presenting them with the Abu Dhabi Awards trophy and medal.
Dr Jayanti Maitra
Dr Jayanti Maitra has dedicated more than three decades of her life to documenting the history of the UAE and its Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed.
After pouring over hundreds and thousands of texts, Dr Maitra says knew the Founding Father in every sense: from his ancestry to his favourite hobby.
“I worshipped him,” she says.
Sadly, she was never able to meet him in person “so receiving an award during the Year of Zayed means so much to me.”.
The historian and university professor moved to the UAE from India in the 1980s and soon realised that, other than the British, no one was documenting the country’s rich culture.
In 1996, she joined what is now known as the National Archives and was tasked with writing a book about the history of Abu Dhabi. Today her books – Qasr Al Hosn, which charts the emirate's history from 1793 to 1966, and Zayed – are some of few reliable sources for UAE history.
“I had to go through thousands of text and do so much research,” Dr Maitra's says.
At the time, there was little research to refer to.
Over the years, and partially due to her efforts, the National Archives has collected thousands of documents and audio visual records related to the history and heritage of the region.
Fatima Al Kaabi
At 10-years-old, Fatima Al Kaabi purchased her first aerobatics kit and showed her friends how to assemble it.
Now aged 16, she has shown thousands of pupils across 22 schools, how important it is to innovate.
“I started by doing my own workshops in school and then I was asked to go to other schools,” says Fatima.
This inspired her to become a licensed trainer.
“I am trying to promote the idea of innovation,” the grade 11 pupil says.
“If it is workshop for younger pupils Ill teach them about circuits and it is older pupils then it can be anything like creating your own robot.”
The workshops are free.
“I know how successful they are depending on how many pupils are inspired to create something after the workshop.”
Fatima’s latest invention is a robot that can attend school on behalf of children too ill to physically do so.
“I never imagined that I would win. Winning the Abu Dhabi Awards was always a target but nothing I thought I would actually receive at this age. I thought I would be nominating others instead. I never saw this coming. I am so happy and still shocked,” she says.
Dr Azzam Al Zoebie
One of the most heart-warming moments during the ceremony was the award given to the late Dr Azzam Al Zoebie. The award was received by his 25-year-old daughter Lama.
“It was too hard for me to go. I was dying on the inside,” says his wife, Talla Al Habian.
Few in the health sector do not know of Dr Al Zoebie. His patients called him “father” and would run up to hug him whenever they saw him.
Dr al Zoebie dedicated his life to treating paediatric cancer patients only to die of the same disease last year in May.
“He died of colon cancer but even in his last hours, all he cared about was his patients,” says Ms Al Habian.
After his first course of treatment at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, the hospital was flooded with flowers.
“It was the families of patients who set it all up and brought in cake and flowers. There was a large banner with a picture of him surrounded by the children that he loved as his own and helped save their lives and alleviate their pain. We can’t believe he is gone,” hospital staff say.
His wife says the award has helped alleviate her grief over losing her husband.
“It helped to know that he was appreciated. I know that he is happy and in a better place,” she says.
Dr Zoebie set up the paediatric oncology and haematology department at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.
Farah Al Qaissieh
Speaking to 28-year-old Farah Al Qaissieh, you would never be able to tell that she was once ridiculed for stuttering. Her exuberant character and beaming smile when receiving the Abu Dhabi Award shows no indication that she once shied away from being in public.
“Before I started university, I decided that this not the persona I wanted to go into university. I decided to face my fears and the more I did, the less I stuttered,” she says.
Mrs Al Qaissieh started the first support group, now with more than 800 members, for people who stutter. This led to a short 15-minute film that featured at Cannes Film Festival which she says is changing perceptions on how people perceive stutters and how they view themselves.
“This award isn’t for me. It is not just for Farah. It for every person who stutters and for everyone who supported us,” she says.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time. It came during the Year of Zayed who promoted inclusiveness and togetherness and this is what we are trying to do.”
Sheikh Mubarak Al Mansoori
If you needed a house, or were a widow in desperate need of assistance during the days of Sheikh Zayed, you would know Sheikh Mubarak Al Mansoori.
He used his direct access to the UAE Founding Father to help Emiratis and was so close to the late president that he was given the title "Sheikh".
"My father always helped others. He was always sitting with Sheikh Zayed at the majlis asking him for help on behalf of Emiratis who couldn’t reach the president," his son Qarran says.
Qarran recalls the day his father suggested the establishment of the Zakat Fund to Sheikh Zayed.
"They were at the majlis and my father told Sheikh Zayed that there were so many people in need so why not establish the Zakat Fund – a charity dedicated to helping others. In its first year the fund had Dh7 million," he said.
Sheikh Al Mansoori says: "The awards mean a lot to me especially that it is during the Year of Zayed. It was a privilege to be his companion and to contribute in any way but it was all due to the generosity and legacy of Zayed.”
Dr George Mathew
Known as “Matyous”, Dr George Mathew was one of the first doctors who came to Abu Dhabi five decades ago, and the first to work in a public hospital in Al Ain.
He witnessed the beginning of modern medicine in the UAE and contributed significantly to the advancement of health care services in the emirate.
Born in Kerala in 1940, Dr Mathew moved to Abu Dhabi in 1967 where he began his career as a general practitioner in Al Ain.
Over the past 50 years, D. Mathew held several positions where he made significant contributions to promote modern medical culture.
He also played a major role in training health care staff.
Earning the love and confidence of all who knew him, Dr Mathew, is now a valuable source of medical information to the Al Ain community.
Ibrahim Al Abed
Ibrahim Al Abed, currently Adviser to the National Media Council, is one of the most prominent figures in the country’s media sector.
Dr Al Abed founded the Emirates News Agency (Wam) in 1977.
Under his leadership, Wam earned multiple accolades. His dedication throughout the past 40 years played a major role in preserving and promoting the UAE’s image,
He supervised the editing of the UAE Annual Book and other publications issued by its Foreign Media Department.
Dr Al Abed continues to be an invaluable mentor and a resource to generations who benefit from his support and extensive experience.
Ali Al Ahbabi
Born in Al Ain in 1930, Ali Al Ahbabi is known for his passion for education and extensive support of national initiatives.
In 2008, Al Ahbabi received the “Ideal Parent” award from the Education and Knowledge Department, formerly known as Al Ain Educational Zone.
He also chaired the Parents Council at Zayed Secondary School in Al Ain for nearly 10 years.
Always keen to play a major role in building an educated society capable of serving this country, in 2006, Mr Al Ahbabi established the Ibn Battuta International Training Centre.
In 2016, this centre dedicated 150 places to disabled people.
He is currently the Honorary President of Ibn Batutta International Training Centre.
Theban Al Mheiri
Theban Al Mheiri is among the first Emiratis to take part in sports for disabled people.
After a spine injury caused by a car accident in 1994 left him paralysed, Mr Al Mheiri has achieved significant sporting success, with a goal of actively serving the Abu Dhabi community by developing the UAE Paralympic team.
In addition to his role as an administrator in the Abu Dhabi Police GHQ, Mr Al Mheiri serves as Secretary of the UAE Disabled Sports Federation.
He also played a pivotal role in the Al Ain Club for the Disabled, from 1999 until 2010.
Mr Al Mheiri’s contributions extend beyond sports; he took part in a number of initiatives and projects aimed at creating an inclusive society, advocating for the integration of people with special needs.