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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Twin events tell the story of the UAE’s past and future

As the nation marks the anniversary of Baba Zayed's death, fluttering flags mark a future brimming with confidence

Abdullah Ali Almansoori and Humaid Mohammed Alnuaimi salute the UAE flag with students from Gems Royal Dubai School. Leslie Pableo for The National 
Abdullah Ali Almansoori and Humaid Mohammed Alnuaimi salute the UAE flag with students from Gems Royal Dubai School. Leslie Pableo for The National 

As we mark the 14th anniversary of the death of Sheikh Zayed, the nation honours the life of the Founding Father, whose vision made it a place people from all corners of the world could be proud to call home. In this Year of Zayed, a celebration of the centenary of the birth of the founder, the anniversary of his passing is vested with a particular poignancy. But while it is an occasion for sad reflection, this is also a time to celebrate the achievements of the past 14 years.

Saturday is Flag Day, which marks Sheikh Khalifa’s accession to the presidency. An opportunity to bring the communities of the UAE together, it is also a moment to consider the meaning of the black, green, red and white flag. Around the world, national flags have been hijacked by extremists and transformed into emblems of hate and fear. By contrast, the flag flown proudly throughout the UAE is a symbol of the tolerance that is stitched into the very fabric of this nation. In a region rife with conflict, the flag is also a beacon of progress and stability, a touchstone in the midst of chaos. For recipients of UAE aid around the world, its colours signal hope and humanitarianism.

Those colours, chosen by 19-year-old Abdullah Al Maainah in 1971, are resonant with historic and contemporary meaning. Black represents early Islam; green the era of the Fatimid caliphate and nature; white, peace, purity and charity, and red, sacrifice and blood. The flag also symbolises the unification of the seven emirates.

Much has been achieved since the death of Sheikh Zayed. Through diversification into fields from aeronautical engineering and space exploration to sustainable energy, the UAE is moving away from its reliance on oil.

From next year, nuclear power plants will begin to come online. Satellites bearing the national flag, the first steps towards a journey to Mars, now circle the planet. In 2019, one of the nation’s sons will become the first Emirati in space. As it looks back in gratitude on the extraordinary life of the man who made all this possible, so the nation can look forward in confidence to a future brighter than anyone could surely have imagined on the day the flag first flew above the UAE.