ABU DHABI // Sheikh Zayed, the founding father of the UAE, died 11 years ago on this day in the Islamic calendar – the 19th day of Ramadan.
And while many young Emiratis were barely old enough to remember his rule, they say his life, teachings and accomplishments still inspire them.
Omar Al Owais, 17, said Sheikh Zayed was more like a father figure than a Ruler and had “set an example by putting his nation before himself”.
“Sheikh Zayed once said: ‘Thanks to our ancestors who challenged the adversities of time and the misfortunes of life. Because of their fortitude, our generation is living in prosperity and grace’,” Omar said.
“That reminded me of the perseverance shown by himself and his people at that time in transforming the barren desert into the lush oasis it is now. It also gives me hope and the motivation for a better tomorrow.”
Alanoud Madhi said Sheikh Zayed taught her “persistence in making a vision a reality, leading by example and modesty”.
“Sheikh Zayed once said that the wealth we have as a country is a grace from God, and it is his duty to use that wealth for the benefit and prosperity of his people as a way of gratitude to God,” said Alanoud, 26. “Therefore, it is our duty to give back to the UAE through becoming a valuable member of society.”
Members of the community can continue Sheikh Zayed’s legacy through “generosity, tolerance and wisdom”, she said.
Student Maryam Qassim, 20, said Sheikh Zayed’s example had allowed Emiratis and expatriates to live in unity.
“This also teaches us to accept one another, no matter what different backgrounds or cultures we come from, and how our beliefs differ,” she said.
Maryam said the younger generation should use the anniversary of Sheikh Zayed’s death to reflect on the hardships their ancestors faced and how they overcame them. “He instilled his vision in us, and young Emiratis are finding more and more ways to move forward. We must live up to his visions.”
She said it was up to younger people to keep the memory of Sheikh Zayed alive. “Documentaries, biographies, and even movies can be created to reach out to the interests of the new generations,” Maryam said.
Aesha Al Hammadi said: “I learnt that a dream can’t be achieved easily and that I should give a lot to reach that dream no matter how big it is – just like Sheikh Zayed, who built a country that is so unique and beautiful starting from nothing.”
Dubai Abulhoul, a student and writer, recalled a quote from Sheikh Zayed that inspired her: “It is my duty as the leader of the young people of this country to encourage them to work and to exert themselves to raise their own standards and to be of service to the country.
“The individual who is healthy and of sound mind and body but does not work commits a crime against himself and society.”