x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Remembering Zayed: memories of the UAE's founding president

The nation went into mourning on the 19th day of Ramadan in the Islamic year of 1425 with the death of Sheikh Zayed. This Sunday is the 19th day of Ramadan 1434. Nine years on 'Baba's' vision still shines...

Sheikh Zayed was a man whose drive and strength forged the nation in 1971. He came to symbolise the power of unity in a world that was increasingly complex and dangerous.  Courtesy Al Ittihad
Sheikh Zayed was a man whose drive and strength forged the nation in 1971. He came to symbolise the power of unity in a world that was increasingly complex and dangerous. Courtesy Al Ittihad
"Baba Zayed", the people called him, although his correct title was Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates.
It is nine years since his passing on the 19th day of Ramadan, 1425, an anniversary which falls on Sunday, and serves as an auspicious time to remember the Father of the Nation and honour his achievements during a month of sacrifice and remembrance.
This 19th day of Ramadan is also Emirati Humanitarian Work Day, and draws on the memory of Sheikh Zayed to springboard on to a series of initiatives that promote the spirit of giving and philanthropy.
They include clothing drives for orphans and the needy, fund-raising for the "Egypt in Our Hearts" campaign as well as a series of free iftars along with films and photographic exhibitions about his life and work.
Over the coming days, The National will recount the many different sides of Zayed, a man whose drive and strength forged the nation in 1971, and came to symbolise the power of unity in a world that was increasingly complex and dangerous.
Today's photo spread reminds us of Sheikh Zayed's place among the citizens of the UAE, always at their side as they built seven emirates into one country together as one nation.
The settings are sometimes formal - cutting a ribbon to mark the official opening of the E11 motorway to Dubai, for example, or inspecting an architect's model for a new project - the connection between the Ruler and his people is always palpable. Other photos show Sheikh Zayed taking the salute from the UAE Armed Forces on the 5th National Day in 1976 and congratulating newly qualified graduates.
It is most obvious when Sheikh Zayed is away from the palaces and the parades. Seated next to a fruit vendor in a local market, another trader approaches Sheikh Zayed with mangoes. The Ruler's eyes are on the man, welcoming him, rather than the fruit. Moving among construction workers, he cannot resist telling one man where to dig. In another image he signals the driver of a bulldozer into position. No detail was ever too small.
Perhaps the best expression of the mutual love and respect between the Ruler and his people can be seen in a visit to Delma Island in 1975. Sheikh Zayed perches on a pile of rocks surrounded by local residents sharing his vision for the future.
He was a man of the people, a leader who remains in the hearts of many across the Middle East and beyond, and a model for generations to come.