x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

33. A Kalashnikov or AK-47 rifle fired by Sheikh Zayed

To mark the nation's 40th anniversary, we are featuring 40 historic objects in a series from Sunday to Thursday weekly until December 1. Visit 40@40 for videos documenting the stories behind the objects.

It is impossible to know how many Kalashnikov or AK-47 assault rifles have been produced since it was invented in the Soviet Union in 1946. The best estimate is between 75 million and 100 million.

This one, though, is different. Numbered in Arabic, 14/414, it was laid out for inspection at the shooting range of the Abu Dhabi Police Academy for an official visit by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan on May 1, 1979.

Sheikh Zayed had come to the academy to witness a training session for the second intake of female recruits to the police force, but could not resist demonstrating his own skills as a marksman.

The moment was captured by an official photographer and, with the markings so clearly visible on the weapon's shoulder stock, the gun would later become part of a display at the Sheikh Zayed Centre for Studies and Research in Al Bateen, where it can be seen to this day.

A year before Sheikh Zayed's visit, the first batch of 23 female officers had graduated from the academy. The UAE was the first country in the Gulf to use women as police officers.

Today, the training intake is around 100, with growing numbers of young Emirati women expressing an interest in a police career.

Interviewed for The National's M magazine last year, First Lieutenant Shamma Al Muhairy expressed the hope that there might one day be a female chief of police in Abu Dhabi.

"We already have around four women who are lieutenant colonels," she said. "I think it is more about who is doing the best job, not about who is a man and who is a woman."

Appointments can be made to visit the Sheikh Zayed Centre, which includes a large collection of artefacts from the former President's life. To book a tour and for directions, call 02 665 9555