Eight decades apart but boy and elderly man are united by winning Abu Dhabi Award

Indian expat Abdul, who launched a campaign to reduce plastic bag use, was the award's youngest winner at 10, while Mr Muhairi, who teaches traditional medicine techniques, was the oldest at 91.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, right, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, presenting the Abu Dhabi Award to the oldest recipient, Aqeeda Ali Al Muhairi,last year. Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court – Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI // There are more than eight decades between schoolboy Abdul Muqeet and Aqeeda Ali Al Muhairi, but they have one thing in common – each is the proud recipient of an Abu Dhabi Award.

Each picked up the gong – the highest award given in the emirate – at last year’s awards ceremony, where they were recognised for their individual acts of generosity to the community.

Indian expatriate Abdul, who launched a campaign to reduce the use of plastic bags, was the youngest winner, being just 10 at the time, while Mr Muhairi, who practises and teaches traditional medicine techniques, was the oldest at 91.

Abdul, who is now 11, demonstrated an attitude far beyond his years when he began his commitment to saving the environment in Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE.

Inspired by the 2010 campaign “UAE Free of Plastic Bags”, the pupil at the Abu Dhabi Indian School used his initiative and imagination to create 100 per cent recycled carrier bags out of discarded newspapers.

He then set out to distribute these bags throughout the community, replacing plastic bags that can take hundreds of years to biodegrade.  What began as a hobby developed into a huge community campaign.

During the first year alone, Abdul created and donated more than 4,000 paper bags in Abu Dhabi.

He then set about delivering the message to a wider audience and led local workshops at grocery stores, schools and local companies – encouraging others to create and distribute the paper bags.

He then went on to represent the UAE at several conferences, including a United Nations conference in Indonesia, where he demonstrated to others how a simple idea can benefit a whole community.

“I thought if bags can be made out of anything, why can they not be made out of newspapers?” he said. “Then I decided to distribute them in the community.

“I never thought I would get this award and meet His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

“I’ve never got such a big award. I thought saving the environment was my duty. If you have something good in your mind, then transfer it and do something good for the community.”

Like Abdul, Mr Al Muhairi wanted to make Abu Dhabi a better place.

Having learnt the art of traditional medicine from his grandmother at the age of 20, the Emirati has since dedicated more than 70 years to healing people from across the community.

His work began during an era when, without the option of hospitals and general health care, even the simplest diseases were capable of destroying people’s lives. At that time, the need for traditional folk medicine was of paramount importance.

Significantly, Mr Al Muhairi always offered his services free of charge, only ever accepting donations from those who could afford to do so.

Over the years, he formed an expert knowledge of treatments for more than 50 diseases, and he has cared for thousands of patients in that time.

Mr Al Muhairi is also considered to have a wide knowledge of the sciences, culture and society. In particular, he is well recognised for his intimate knowledge of the familial and tribal roots of the UAE and the geography of the land of Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Dubai.

Today, the 92-year-old continues to treat people, sharing his experience with researchers and doctors of mainstream modern medicine, including his own grandson, Essa, who has been able to use his grandfather’s experience to treat his own patients.

The Abu Dhabi Awards organising committee is looking for more people, like Abdul and Mr Al Muhairi, to be put forward for this year’s awards, which will be the seventh time the awards have taken place since they were launched in 2005.

Information about how and where to make a nomination is available at www.abudhabiawards.ae.

Individuals have until May 31 to nominate and you can make as many nominations as you like. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in December.