Forty years ago, seven emirates shared culture, tradition, language, religion and customs, but were separated by borders. In an era when the whole of the Arab world was busy with pan-Arabism and the discourse of unity, little attention focused on these tiny city-states, quietly drifting towards the end of British rule. The UAE's founder Sheikh Zayed said: "Do not speak of what you will do, but let your achievements speak for you."
In the spirit of those words, Sheikh Zayed took it upon himself to unite the emirates and create a nation. His achievements speak for themselves as he left his children a country that has risen from the desert dunes to become a model to, and a home for, many people from around the world.
The United Arab Emirates has come a long way from where it once was. My generation has witnessed the growth of a nation the birth of which our fathers witnessed before us. The generations to follow will see it progress further. What we have built in only 40 years is a source of pride for every UAE national and resident.
The main source of pride, for me at least, is the unification and the assimilation of people under one nation, one identity and one common cause: on December 2, 1971 we became the people of the United Arab Emirates. But is that all? Of course not.
We will always be indebted to Sheikh Zayed for what he did for us, and we should all give back to this country what it deserves. While we are a young nation with many achievements, the road ahead is long and tough. It is similar to the road Sheikh Zayed took to build and unite the nation, where he faced hardship, opposition and many surprises along the way. Sheikh Zayed believed that progress is a never-ending cycle of upgrades and reform. And thus this responsibility falls on every one of us: to make sure we work for our country the best that we can through our professions, education and family.
Sheikh Zayed believed that human capital is the greatest resource of the nation; our pride in this nation means we must continue his legacy, for the sake of this country and to honour the great man who made that dream a reality.
We have come a long way from December 2, 1971 to what we are today on December 2, 2011. One can only be honoured by our past, proud of our present and confident in our future, in this new nation drawn out from the desert sands by Sheikh Zayed, the founder, leader and father. Let us celebrate the 40th anniversary of our nation for all its values and achievements. And on December 3, let us start working once again for our nation, honouring Sheikh Zayed for all that he has given us.
Thabet Hashem Al Qassieh is an Emirati blogger. Follow him on Twitter: @Thabet_UAE