x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

31. Zahrat Al Khaleej

To mark the nation's 40th anniversary, we feature 40 historic objects.

Zahrat Al Khaleej, the UAE's first women's lifestyle magazine, was launched in 1979 and has become the premier Arabic-language women's weekly in the Gulf.
Ten-year-old Sawsan Al Masqati appeared on the cover of one of the magazine's earliest issues. "A photographer from the magazine asked my mother, who is one of the founders of the Ladies Union Association, if she could photograph me," explains the Emirati interior designer.
The picture was taken outside the Ladies Union Association building in the Mushrif area, showing a smiling Sawsan sitting in front of a fountain wearing a pink and white dress. With her classic features, Sawsan was the quintessential young Emirati girl.
Taken in 1980, nine years after the UAE's independence, the magazine cover is a unique piece of the country's history. At her young age, Sawsan was oblivious to this and was more focused on playfully teasing her younger sister. "I was showing off to make her jealous because I was chosen and not her," she laughs.
At an event for the opening of the Ladies Union's exhibition and auditorium building, Sawsan remembers feeling nervous and excited as she presented the issue to His Highness Sheikh Zayed. She also distributed the magazine to other dignitaries at the event, including Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed. "I remember him as being very charming," she recalls fondly. "He later called me to the Majlis to congratulate me and ask me questions."
Sawsan, now 41 and a mother of three, says: "My oldest daughter looks exactly like I did in the picture."
With the 40th anniversary of the UAE approaching, Sawsan reminisces on how she has seen the country flourish. "I am proud of how my country has grown. Life is good for this generation of Emiratis; we are so lucky to have the opportunities we have."