ABU DHABI // Samer Alhaira was born in 1971, in a house made of mud with a generator as its only source of power and sometimes dates as its only source of food.
Forty years later, Samer is about to move into a new, 800-square-metre, two-floor villa on land in the capital given to him by the Government.
It is a far cry, he says, from the days when it was a big deal for anyone to own a car, a TV or even footwear.
"This is the difference between me and my son," says Samer. "I used to walk barefoot on the ground when it measured up to 45°C. If he walks on 30°Cbarefoot, he will be jumping on his tip toes.
"If I got thirsty there was only water. I couldn't just buy juice from anywhere."
In his opinion, the major changes his generation witnessed are the essence of national pride and appreciation.
"It is our duty to teach our children our culture and heritage; we don't have pyramids, we have our country's development as our civilisation," Samer says.
The father of six, who works as the vice president of sales and marketing at ZonesCorp, says he has the UAE to thank for his position.
The Government paid for his education, gave him land and provided a Dh2 million loan, of which he has to pay back only 75 per cent over 30 years, to build his own house.
But Samer says the biggest gift from the country was his education.
"Without it I'm not worth anything," he says. "I have a perfect job and I'm providing my family with the best lifestyle. I'm still living in a small rented house, waiting for my own big one to be ready. "This feeling that the children will finally have their own study rooms was something missing in my life."
Samer recalls the first time he and his friends wore trousers as children.
"We were in school and our teachers from Kuwait and Jordan brought fabric for our school uniforms: grey pants and white shirts," he says.
"When they distributed the fabric, it was a weird thing to wear trousers."
His most significant memory of the country's leaders was easy for him to name.
"The only interaction I had with Sheikh Zayed was at a wedding in 1990," Samer says. "He said to me a phrase, and since my father passed away along time ago it left a deep impact.
"And this same phrase was repeated to me by his son, Sheikh Mohammed."
The phrase was: "How are you, my son?"
"You might've heard these words from many old people, but when you hear it from a person who rules millions of people, it is worth the whole world," Samer says.
Watching his country grow along with him, he believes its greatest achievement was establishing industrial and investment zones.
"We were relying on fuel 100 per cent," he says. "We started finding other services in order to lighten the burden on our state that gave us so much.
"Before, any investor used to take the money and go abroad. Now a big percentage of foreigners are investing here.
"The second-biggest achievement is that everyone here, nationals and residents, are grateful to be living in the UAE."