DUBAI // For most of Amer Kazim's childhood, Friday held a special meaning.
It was the only day off from work and school in the 1970s. On these one-day weekends, Mr Kazim's father would take the entire family out for their traditional "drive around town", following Friday prayers and lunch.
"He would give us the option of where to start our drive, and then no matter where we went, we would always make a stop at the airport," he said.
The family parked on the ramp overlooking the planes docked at Dubai International Airport's Terminal One. Then, Mr Kazim, his sister and two brothers would join their parents in counting the tails of the planes.
"There would be a maximum of ten planes, and most of them were Gulf Air, Air India and Pakistan International Airlines," said Mr Kazim.
The family tradition lasted until the 1980s, allowing them to witness the airport's gradual expansion into one of the largest in the world. They noted the addition of local plane tails when Emirates Airline was established in 1985.
But as the airport grew larger, it became more difficult for the family to actually see the planes and their tails from outside the airport.
"But I am lucky, I still get to see and count those plane tails," said Mr Kazim, who after two decades of working in finance at various institutions - including Emirates - has landed an office with a big window view of the very spot that he and his family once saw from the across the road.
"Life is full of surprises," said the senior vice president of Groups Services at the Dubai airport.
Mr Kazim was born Oct 31, 1971. But since he was a "premature baby," he says he was scheduled to be born in December.
"I am so lucky, I get to celebrate two birthdays. First mine, followed by my country's birthday," he said. "It is like I get to celebrate two birthdays each year."
This year, as the UAE celebrates its 40th anniversary, Mr Kazim can't help but feel "proud" of how far his country has come.
"Our leaders had a vision, and we watched this vision come alive gradually, and only now understand how far-reaching and all-encompassing it was," he said.
As Mr Kazim grew, he watched and experienced as his country grew around him.
"Before there was no congestion on the roads and there were roundabouts everywhere that were used as landmarks in giving directions," said Mr Kazim.
As traffic grew heavier, the iconic roundabouts like the "falcon" roundabout at the junction of Al Mina Road and Al Ghubaiba Road, and the "flame" near the old Dubai Airline centre, were replaced with traffic lights.
"Life was moving at a slower pace back then," said Mr Kazim, remembering days spent at "Happy land" with swings and slides, which have since closed down. He also remembers ice skating at "Nasser Leisure land," which has survived to this day.
As a father of one son and two daughters, Mr Kazim likes to remind them of how it was back then, and how important it was not to take things "for granted."
"Every new generation needs to reflect on itself and see how to give back to a country that has given them so much support and trust," said Mr Kazim, who received a Government scholarship to study accounting and finance in the US.
"In my case, now as I reached 40, I hope to have contributed something towards the fields I worked, particularly the service industry, as our country moves towards diversification away from oil," he said.
Whatever changes continue to take place in the UAE, Mr Kazim always goes back to those childhood car rides with his family.
"I learned so much about life and my country, by simply sitting in the back seat of my father's car," he said.