x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The Ali Story: Full speed ahead

In this serialised feature, Ali Al Saloom shares his insight and experiences from growing up in the UAE.

Another exciting week has passed by so quickly, and I can only feel more exciting things are going to happen, inshallah. This fast-forward style of life we live in our country and the whole region makes me wonder how we were able to grow so quickly in 41 years!

My reflections go back to the 1980s and the unpaved road between my home town in Bani Yas to Abu Dhabi, where my father would go to his office at the Ministry of Education. He would make this 30km trip every day, back and forth twice to the Al Jazira sports club, as he was a member of the board, and general secretary. These trips were taken along with other people, and all for the sake of continuing the growth status of our nation; everybody was busy doing something to help the nation become stronger so that the younger generation could have a good level of education. I still remember how my parents would sit down in the afternoon by the beautiful garden we had in our home and they would discuss how things are really growing so fast and quickly.

But when I compare that with the speed of today's growth, I would say it's even double now, if not triple! So as I introduce my culture tour guests from all over the world, they often ask me: "How did your parents and your forefathers manage this fast growth, and moving away from the desert to living in modern cities?" This is really a tricky question to me, because if the guests wonder and think that our past used to be much faster, then I would have to explain to them how much faster we are growing today.

The reality is, the past and today's growth speed is really the same speed, but our surroundings, types of projects and ways of communicating have just changed a bit. OK, maybe a lot, and this is a major reason why we feel today that we are growing so much faster than the years before. Each time had its own challenges and men to overcome these challenges, and hence, as an Emirati, I truly feel that no matter what challenges our country or people would ever face, we would definitely find a solution and grow even more.

I was around 13 when my father said to me: "Son, God gifts each human with great goods. He also gifts the animals, the plants, as well as the whole planet with certain goods, but also God gifted this whole region something." I said quickly, what is it?

"Our Beloved Father Sheikh Zayed," replied my father. "He was gifted to this land, the desert, the oasis, the mountains, the sea, the people, the whole region knows he was and still is the greatest gift ever to have been gifted by God to us and this land [and he would point at the trees that we would see on the side ways of the highway]. And hence when such a gift is brought to you by God you should always appreciate it!"

I say, how father? And my father would say: "Well, that's so simple: just continue working passionately on what you do, be part of this great nation's growth and development. Never let any challenge put you down or get so negative, because what your ancestors faced to build this nation was much more difficult with more complications than today's issues and challenges."

He sealed his talk to me by saying: "Good seeds in good lands with good care will always grow to give you a great forest with amazing fruits, hence our beloved Sheikh Zayed's plantation of great values: respect, caring for each other, building the nation for a better tomorrow and many more. All these have been the umbrella that we find shade from the success we have achieved so far as people of the UAE.

I said earlier that the week has been exciting and it's always like that, because I continue to reflect on the past of how my father would have travelled that route back and forth to Abu Dhabi for work. He always pointed at new things being built along the way. This will always show me how we should appreciate these great achievements; there are nations in the world that haven't changed for 100 years, yet in our country we are growing every week by what seems a whole year.