Sheikh Zayed’s example: Expats recall how their lives became part of UAE’s fabric

Expatriates who arrived in the then Trucial States in the 1960s and had the pleasure of meeting Sheikh Zayed before the unification of the country took it upon themselves this Flag Day to speak of their journey with the UAE.

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ABU DHABI // Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father of the Nation, once said never call expatriates “foreigners” because they are guests here and it is in the Arab way to treat guests better than family members.

Expatriates who arrived in the then Trucial States in the 1960s and had the pleasure of meeting Sheikh Zayed before the unification of the country took it upon themselves this Flag Day to speak of their journey with the UAE.

Sheikh Zayed’s era, they said, was golden and based on tolerance, justice and respect for all – themes that have been carried on by President Sheikh Khalifa and his brothers.

Mohan Jashanmal, a businessman and patriarch of the Indian community in the UAE, met Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Khalifa several times since their first meeting in 1964.

“He used to tell me that he was going to make this country one of the best in the world,” said Mr Jashanmal, who now runs Jashanmal stores across the UAE and Arab states as part of Jashanmal Group.

“When Sheikh Zayed was the governor of Al Ain in 1960s, he used to come to my Jashanmal store once a month and the store was located at that time on Abu Dhabi Corniche.

“Sometimes, we shared some light moments with him, asking why he was so excited about transforming Abu Dhabi into a garden city with high-rise buildings, so he used to say, ‘By the grace of Allah, it will happen’.”

Sheikh Zayed was a visionary who made all his dreams come true, Mr Jashanmal said.

Another Indian, who arrived in the UAE in June 1970, said the country has played an important role in his life and has given him everything he could have imagined.

“I arrived in Dubai 46 years ago and started working as an accountant in Abu Dhabi on a salary of 120 dinars (Dh1,200) and a two-bedroom house was available at 20 dinars,” said Joy Thomas John, a businessman in Abu Dhabi who has met Sheikh Khalifa several times.

“This is my second home, and the UAE gave me and my children everything. This entire life has transformed my family’s fortunes.

“I salute the UAE flag on this occasion very sincerely and respectfully, and wish that the country grows high.”

Pakistani animal trader Doulat Khan, 48, said: “When I came to the UAE 25 years ago. I had nothing and the country bestowed me everything. So I salute the UAE and its kind people.

“We are from poor family backgrounds but my poverty was ended here in the UAE, so I owe a lot to the UAE.

“Now my children get a good education, healthcare and I support my parents financially, and I built my house. That’s all because of the UAE.

“I remember Sheikh Zayed used to visit Port Zayed’s carpet market often and he waved to us. That used to be a great moment and encouragement for us.”

anwar@thenational.ae