x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Crematorium is a multi-faith benefit

A new crematorium in Abu Dhabi caters for Hindus and Christians, and is another example of the inclusive development of the country.

When Alan Harrison was battling cancer, he had one last wish: to be cremated in the Emirates, where he had lived for 10 years. Sadly for his wife Lorraine, when the Scotsman finally succumbed to the disease, his wish could not be fulfilled.

"Alan didn't want to leave," she said. "He wanted to be committed in the Emirates."

Visa regulations prohibited Mr Harrison, as a resident of Abu Dhabi, from being cremated in the country's only facility at the time, located in Dubai. It is only now, more than two years later, that the situation has been rectified for the capital's non-Muslim residents.

As The National reported yesterday, the first crematorium in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, having stood idle since construction five years ago, is now in its second month of operation. Having finally received a trade licence, the Dh25 million facility, located 10 kilometres west of the Hili suburb of Al Ain, is one of the country's first multi-faith religious institutions.

The introduction should be a major emotional, not to mention financial, benefit for the country's expatriate families. Repatriation of bodies can be very expensive, sometimes costing as much as Dh30,000. The practicality and time-saving aspects of cremation will be welcome for many families whose lives would have already been disrupted by recent tragic events.

Culturally, it is also a significant step for the UAE. Cremation is forbidden in Islam; that efforts were made to get the crematorium and graveyard up and running, even belatedly, is a testament to the tolerance that the UAE government is promoting throughout the country.

"No one thought it could be a multi-faith building, it had to be either Christian or Hindu exclusively," said Don Fox, a Briton who has lived in the UAE for two decades and is now in charge of running the crematorium. "That is why it has taken so long."

Many have waited a long time for this moment, and their patience has now been repaid. To the faithful of all religions, being taken care of in death is as important and appreciated as it is in life.