Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 6 December 2019

UAE National Day: a time to celebrate a five-decade legacy

Young Emiratis are holding up the achievements of their forefathers

The UAE will celebrate its 48th National Day on Monday. Leslie Pableo for The National
The UAE will celebrate its 48th National Day on Monday. Leslie Pableo for The National

On December 2, 1971, dozens of tribal leaders, journalists and political agents crowded into a room in Union House, which became so crammed that some had to clamber on to the table and climb out of the window to escape. Despite the chaos, it was – as testified by those who were there on the day the treaty was signed, marking the federation of the UAE – a remarkable moment. Forty-eight years on, there have been many more such remarkable and unprecedented moments. Since that auspicious day nearly half a century ago, the UAE has undergone a massive transformation that has seen it evolve from a nomadic land of Bedouin eking out a tough existence in the desert to a world-class financial and tourism hub attracting the best talent from around the world.

In the past five decades, the UAE has celebrated National Day in spectacular fashion to honour the legacy of its founders. While the day is an important time to look back and reflect on the country’s profound achievements, it also gives pause to look forward to the next 50 years, and to a new generation of Emiratis who will be helping to catapult the country into the future and are already making a name for themselves, on the regional and global stage.

Most were not alive when the country was formed. Some have yet to reach adulthood. But they are already beginning to shape the nation's future and are carving out a new legacy that will see the UAE talked about in the future beyond the worlds of economy or business.

Among them are Amna Al Qubaisi, who at the age of 19 has her sights set on becoming the first Arab woman to take part in a Formula One race. The teenager has already won her first Formula Four race and plans to compete in a field that has seen few women reach the upper echelons anywhere in the world.

Then there is national hero Hazza Al Mansouri, who attracted international headlines when he became the first Emirati astronaut to soar into space. In September, Maj Al Mansouri spent eight days aboard the International Space Station, inspiring a whole generation to follow in his footsteps and reach for the stars.

“The launch sparked something in the souls of kids, not just here but across the whole Arab region,” he said last month at his first public appearance since landing back on Earth. “I believe they are already inspired and will follow their dreams and do something great.”

Young Emiratis are carving out a new legacy that will see the UAE talked about in the future beyond the worlds of economy or business

Maj Al Mansouri’s words resonated with a new, coming generation of Emiratis who are not afraid of taking their destiny into their hands and who see only opportunities on the horizon. They are already carving out names for themselves and making their nation proud.

People such as science prodigy Alia Al Mansoori, a 16-year-old scientific research fellow at New York University Abu Dhabi, who won an astronomy prize last year that led to her conceptual creation being launched into space.

While the nation has a futuristic vision, competing in key burgeoning fields of technology and artificial intelligence, it has never forgotten its core values, among them tolerance. The Year of Tolerance began with Pope Francis's landmark visit to Abu Dhabi, the first visit to the Middle East by a Pope. It was a strong symbol of understanding and co-existence and allowed millions of Christian worshippers to see the Pope here in the Arab world.

There are many others like Ms Al Qubaisi and Maj Al Mansouri with the skills and talent to write their nation's future history. They are the people who will shape the UAE for the next 50 years. As much as National Day is about remembering what has gone before, this is their day too: an opportunity to celebrate all the people who have made the UAE the country it is today and will take it to new heights.

Updated: December 1, 2019 11:54 PM

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