The general who had a kind heart
ABU DHABI // Although it is almost four decades since Saif bin Mayah Al Afari died, his son still hears his name mentioned in the community.
Anecdotes about his father doing whatever he could to help people, including clearing their debts, are still talked about today, says his son, Al Metaredh Al Afari.
Brig Gen Saif Al Afari was one of the founding members of the Armed Forces and the Presidential Guard.
On a Thursday afternoon in 1976, before heading to Al Hamra base where he was stationed, he got his seven children into a huddle and advised them: “[Do] not befriend the dishonourable; people will find his flaws in you, but befriend the men that have goodness in them.”
At dawn the next morning, his family received a call that he was unwell and were told he was in hospital.
“He had died in the plane he was in. He arrived dead while we were waiting for him,” says Al Metaredh, 50, the eldest of his sons.
“He was young, not even 40 years old. I was a child who had just lost his father – it is indescribable.”
Of that time, he remembers “old men would cry while hugging me and I would start crying with them”.
Al Metaredh says he was very close to his father. “We were able to have a relationship. We didn’t have TVs and technology to keep us apart.”
He says he holds “beautiful” memories of his father.
“He was a quiet man, and even at home he was still very military like, he was very loving but was firm, very humble and never hasty,” Al Metaredh says.
“I remember he was a loving man, and our house was always filled with people who came to him for work and personal related matters. He loved people and didn’t discriminate, he always wanted to help, and had the ability to respond to their needs.
“After his death, people would still come asking for him. He was very special and an honest man.”
Al Metaredh says his father’s death forced his mother to take responsibility for raising the children.
“My mother was a bit over 20 years old at that time but she would act wisely, as my father would have wanted,” he says.
“My mother, may Allah give her the strength, wanted us to grow up to become like him, to help people and respect them.
“She would always remind us of his good deeds and expected us to follow.”
Al Metaredh says his father was very close to Sheikh Zayed and shared some of the late President’s qualities.
“To this day, my father is praised. May Allah bless his soul, he had a great reputation for his goodness, just like Sheikh Zayed. They were generous and were the reason behind people’s happiness and trying to end their suffering.”
In the lead up to Commemoration Day The National speaks to the families of the soldiers who have died while serving the UAE. Check out our coverage here:
Updated: November 26, 2015 04:00 AM