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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

‘Journey of the Union’ should inspire us all

Ayesha Almazroui writes about the Journey of the Union that inspired school students to know more about the seven emirates.

Students on the Journey of the Union, on a visit to Fujairah.  (Lee Hoagland/The National)
Students on the Journey of the Union, on a visit to Fujairah. (Lee Hoagland/The National)

The first thing I thought about when I saw the road map for the “Journey of the Union” is how few places I have visited in the emirates other than Abu Dhabi. Out of the 31 historic and cultural sites that were chosen by the organisers, I have only visited 13.

Journey of the Union, the 10-day trip for a group of high-school students, is a good initiative not only for the students who are taking part in it, but also for the promotion of the deeper meaning of the union, which is, most importantly, a union of people. The trip through the seven emirate ends today with the teenagers attending National Day celebrations.

The programme – organised by Al Bayt Mitwahid (Our Home is United), a new project from the Crown Prince’s Court in Abu Dhabi – aims to increase the students’ knowledge and appreciation of the country through visits to landmarks, historical and cultural places, and the headquarters of leading local companies across the country.

During their journey, students have had the chance to engage with high-level representatives in the public and private sector. It has been an eye-opener for the group, as The National discovered when it followed their journey and documented their experiences.

Despite their significance, many of the places chosen as key destinations for the Journey of the Union are not normally visited by Emiratis, especially those that are located outside their own emirate. Most of these places are often visited only by tourists.

I have noticed that many parents are not keen to take their children to see the various museums and historical sites located across the UAE. It appears that they are reluctant to understand the rich history that stretches back before the union, to learn about the lives of the people who have long lived on this land and of the hardships they went through to earn a living – not only in their own emirate but across the UAE.

Some schools seem reluctant to send younger students on excursions to these places.

Sadly, many young people haven’t been to some remarkable historical and cultural sites, such as Fujairah Fort (probably the oldest fort in the UAE) and Bidya Mosque (the oldest mosque in the UAE), Umm Al Quwain’s ed-Dur archaeological sites (the largest site of pre-Islamic interest on the Arabian Gulf coast), or Ajman’s 18th-century fort and museum.

Another significant destination on the Journey of the Union’s itinerary was the Federal National Council, a place that speaks to the often overlooked political development of the UAE.

How many Emiratis have visited the FNC and attended at least one session? I was lucky that I visited the place as part of my work, but I don’t know many Emiratis who have been there out of interest in the country’s young political experience.

I know many Emiratis who rarely cross their own emirate’s borders to visit other parts of the country, explore their significant places and interact with their people. If they do, it may be for the purpose of study, work or entertainment, and most of the interactions happen among relatives, classmates or colleagues.

When Sheikh Zayed sought a union in the early 1970s, he envisioned a united people who had a sense of solidarity, a connected people who embrace their collective history and make an effort to learn about it.

This week, the UAE Cabinet held its meeting at Fujairah Fort, to send a message that “the UAE is one unit” and that “the Cabinet may meet anywhere that brings us close to all citizens”, as Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, tweeted on Sunday. This is a beautiful example that all Emiratis must follow.

On this National Day, I will not be in Abu Dhabi, but in Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah, visiting their interesting sites, camping in their mountains, chilling on their beautiful beaches and spending some time with their people.

Happy National Day, my beloved country. May you always be an example of unity and progress.

aalmazrouei@thenational.ae

Twitter: @AyeshaAlmazroui