x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

RAK residents remember a humble Ruler

Residents of Ras al Khaimah recall fond memories of the late Ruler, paying tribute to the humble, down to earth man who was, as one put it, "the father of everyone".

Residents of Ras al Khaimah recalled fond memories of the late Ruler yesterday, paying tribute to the humble, down to earth man who was, as one woman put it, "the father of everyone".

ABU DHABI // When Mohammed al Dajani rushed to a car that was stuck in the mud in 1973, he did not realise that Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Ras al Khaimah, was inside.

Mr al Dajani was 19 at the time, driving a bulldozer for the company in charge of digging a road to Ras al Khaimah International Airport, when he saw a six-door dark brown Mercedes - and the cars following it - become stuck in the mud.

Even when he offered help, Mr al Dajani had no idea he was talking to because the Ruler was so humble and down to earth.

Sheikh Saqr even laughed when he saw his vehicle's wheels were submerged.

"But I thought he must be someone important. He had a special walk and charisma, different from the others that were with him," he recalled.

After the cars were free, Sheikh Saqr told Mr al Dajani he should go to the diwan of the Ruler of RAK if he ever needed anything.

"I still had no idea he was the Ruler," he said.

Mr Dajani, who works as an administrative manager for a contracting company in Al Ain, was one of many across the country who recalled fond memories of the late Ruler yesterday.

When Fatima al Tamimi arrived with her family from Greater Tunb in 1971, they were greeted by Sheikh Saqr at the port.

"He was the father of everyone," said the 70-year-old.

"He came at 8pm when we arrived", she said. "He arranged for us to be taken to his guest house."

Ms al Tamimi said she would never forget the Ruler's generosity after he put the families who were forced to flee the islands in rented houses for two years.

"He paid for everything; the rent, electricity and water bills."

She said she would read the Quran and pray for Sheikh Saqr's soul over the coming days.

"It is very sad news for us, when my son came for lunch, none of us could eat," she said.

Ahmed Owais, the son of a former municipal affairs adviser to Sheikh Saqr, said that every Eid he used to join the Ruler for prayers before visiting him at the palace.

"He was so humble with children, he would kneel down and hug and kiss the children, he always looked me in the eye when I greeted him," said the 27-year-old, a Palestinian relationships manager in Emirates NBD bank.

"He achieved a lot for RAK, the city had nothing before except the government departments. But now there are many development and tourism projects.

He also brought the emirate into the union, a year after it took place."

Rulers across the Middle East reached out to Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE, after hearing of Sheikh Saqr's death, while Britain's foreign and commonwealth office released a statement of condolence.

"We're very sorry to hear the news of the death of His Highness Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi. Sheikh Saqr's 62-year reign as ruler of Ras al Khaimah was a remarkable achievement, and our thoughts are with his family."

hdajani@thenational.ae