x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

RAK plans celebrations to mark ruler's 60-year reign

Sheikh Saqr, who took power in 1948 at the age of 23, is the world's second longest-serving head of state.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // A cavalry parade, rowing contest and operetta are among events planned later this month to celebrate 60 years of leadership by Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed, Ruler of Ras al Khaimah. Sheikh Saqr, who took power in 1948 at the age of 23, is the world's second longest-serving head of state after the King of Thailand.

Under the patronage of Sheikh Talib bin Saqr, the director general of Ras al Khaimah Police Department, the emirate will hold a celebration on Nov 27 in honour of his reign. Mohammed al Mahrazi, a member of the organising committee, said Sheikh Saqr would be presented with a letter of gratitude by the citizens and residents of RAK. "The letter will be presented from all the people of RAK, Emiratis and foreigners, old and young, to give thanks to him for all that he made.

"He suffered a lot for his people and he guided them into the union, so he deserves this letter. We hope to get up to 100,000 signatures." Mariam al Shehy, the chief of the events committee, said a parade on the Al Qawasim Corniche would include students, citizens, residents, police cavalry and music bands. She expressed her hope that hundreds of students and employees from the government and private sectors would join.

The event is also to include a rowing contest, aircraft and naval shows and a special photo exhibition depicting Sheikh Saqr's life and contributions to the emirate. A group of students are to perform an operetta directed by Abdul al Wahabi and the poet Abdullah al Hadia. Tariq bin Saif, the chief of the organising committee, wants the celebration to express the loyalty people have to Sheikh Saqr. Event organisers promise to transform the Ras al Khaimah Corniche into a "glorious and delightful sight".

The occasion, scheduled to start in the evening and last until midnight, is being sponsored by both public and private sectors. Nasser al Kass, the head of the Ibn Majid Folk Art Society, said that the occasion would be a source of pride for Emiratis. "Sheikh Saqr has spared no effort to harness all human and material potentials for boosting the emirate. He is a beacon of light for his people through the growth and prosperity of the emirate."

Sheikh Saqr succeeded his uncle Sheikh Sultan bin Salim in January 1948. Six months later, on July 16, he was officially inaugurated in a ceremony attended by leading tribal rulers and the British political agent CJ Pelly. Sheikh Saqr inherited a poor emirate that had suffered from the collapse of the pearling industry. He invested his own money into RAK's falaj system - allowing irrigation to sustain various forms of agriculture - and arranged scholarships to schools in nearby Gulf states. He appealed to Kuwaiti and Egyptian governments for assistance in establishing formal education in RAK and made efforts to consolidate his power within the emirate and between neighbouring sheikhdoms.

azacharias@thenational.ae