Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
The founding President was a man of his people, and those privileged enough to meet him carry the memories through their lives. Now the National Media Council has declared the 19th day of Ramadan every year will be devoted to remembering his life.
The founding President was a man of his people, and those privileged enough to meet him carry the memories through their lives. Now the National Media Council has declared the 19th day of Ramadan every year will be devoted to remembering his life.

A day to remember Sheikh Zayed

UAE residents discuss the legacy of the nation's founder, Sheikh Zayed.

Sheikh Zayed is often credited with giving life to the country, but Ahmad Arshi remembers the time the founding President of the UAE did the same for him.

"I had a hole in my heart [at birth] and back then my father's salary was Dh2,000 only, so he couldn't pay for my treatment," says Mr Arshi, 33, a film-maker and novelist.

"So he went to Sheikh Zayed directly and asked him for help. Without hesitation he paid for my surgery in London."

A few years later little Ahmad, then a healthy 4-year-old, got to meet the sheikh face to face, although it was a chance meeting.

"I had a costume party in kindergarten and my mother dressed me as a sheikh," he says. "So we waited for a taxi in Tourist Club Area."

Then a Mercedes stopped in front of them and Sheikh Zayed stepped out.

"Where are you going, you sheikh?" the President asked him.

"He then took me on his lap and chatted to us."

Sheikh Zayed died in 2004 on the 19th day of Ramadan, November 2. The National Media Council has declared every 19th day of Ramadan a commemoration of his life.

Many residents say that even as he united the emirates in 1971 and worked to build the fledgling nation's agricultural and educational systems, he always took time to bring a personal touch to his leadership.

Noura Al Ameri, 28, says that when her family became the first in the area to plant trees around their house, Sheikh Zayed - who fostered dreams of turning the UAE green - stopped to admire them.

"We were the first to be granted houses from Sheikh Zayed and the first to plant our garden in the area," says Ms Al Ameri, a guide and administrative assistant at a museum of Sheikh Zayed's possessions in the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research.

"So when he passed by our area and saw our house, he was very impressed. So he stopped in front of it and toured the area.

"Our gardener came to us and told us what happened. It was 2pm and we were all at home, but he told us after he left."

Sheikh Zayed had a passion for falcons, building a hospital for them and training them to hunt. That passion led to the UAE becoming an international centre of falcon research.

He was also a great supporter of charity. He was popularly known as Zayed Al Khayr and Zayed Al Ataa, which meant Zayed of Charity and Zayed of Giving.

The Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation continues to distribute millions of dirhams of aid each year. Sheikh Zayed also financed a wing of the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus in Baltimore.

His work in helping Palestinians in 1996 earned him a special gift: a piece of the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem, Ms Al Ameri says.

She says her memories of Sheikh Zayed remain as vibrant as his legacy and she often cries when she passes one of his portraits.

Ms Al Ameri says the museum evokes everything that is special about the nation's founder.

"I get goose bumps in that place," she says.

The state news agency WAM will broadcast news reports and documentaries commemorating Sheikh Zayed's life and achievements in Arabic, English and French on local and foreign media.


* With additional reporting by Rym Ghazal

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 An Egyptian Orthodox Christian priest give communion during the Palm Sunday service inCairo, Egypt. Mohamed El-Shahed / AFP

Region in focus - April 18, 2014

The best images of the last seven days from around the Gulf and across the Middle East.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

Video: Local reactions to a national fishing ban

A federal fishing ban has been imposed by the UAE federal government, but local authorities are taking diiferent approaches to implementing the ban. Two fishermen tell two very different sides of the story. Produced by Paul O'Driscoll

 Southampton owner Katharina Liebherr is pictured before the Premier League match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, southern England, on March 1, 2014. Glyn Kirk / AFP

New Southampton owner leading club’s resurgence from the shadows

Katharina Liebherr keeping with family tradition and letting others dominate the spotlight

 The new Bentley GT Speed convertible on display at a press event of the New York International Auto Show. Jason Szenes / EPA

In pictures: Hot cars at New York International Auto Show

With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the US car industry. Here are some of the vehicles to be shown in this year’s edition.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National