The inception of the UAE undoubtedly carries with it extraordinary encounters between the rulers and the people, the country and its inhabitants, and the recollections documented here are an ode to the beautiful bond shared between members of the public and the UAE in the last 50 years.
Can you imagine flying Sheikh Zayed’s private aircraft? As a Pilot Colonel and Commander of the Al Bateen Air Base from 1986 – 2001, Ahmed Al Menhali did just that. In his words, it was “an honour and tremendous responsibility.” In his incredible story, Ahmed shares what those aerial tours were like. How the founding father would often visit remote areas using the helicopter to make sure he could meet and talk to people in places not accessible by car. How he observed, from the sky, the roads and the bridges of the nation being built, and the construction sites spreading out across the land. Ahmed says, “I was the pilot, but Sheikh Zayed was the guide,” perfectly encapsulating what the UAE leadership represents to their people.
The youngest reporter in the UAE, shares the story of his grandfather Khalfan Al Murr, who was the first Emirati broadcaster on radio even before the UAE was formed. He shares how the love for media runs in his blood, and his sense of pride to come from a lineage that pioneered an entire industry in the UAE.
And there are other remarkable experiences. Jamal Ahmed Shrai, a Syrian man who has lived in Fujairah for decades, speaks with deep emotion of a telegram he received from Sheikh Zayed, thanking him for a letter he sent expressing his wish to serve the UAE. “I cry whenever I read the telegram,” Jamal says.
Justin Codrai shares a similar sentiment, speaking of a pearl necklace gifted to his mother by Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum as a wedding gift when his parents married in 1952. Pamela Codrai wore the pearl necklace until her death in 2007.
In another story, Sarah Qadir, on behalf of her father-in-law Muhammad Zia Ur Rehman, a Pakistani official who helped establish the UAE army in the early years, shares how the Rolex watch Sheikh Zayed gifted him for a small act of kindness has become a family heirloom, passed down from one generation to the next. Such stories serve as a reminder of the hard work put in by people from diverse backgrounds who came together, united in effort, and enabled the UAE to scale great heights.