On November 2nd, 2004, the entire world mourned the death of one of the greatest of Arab leaders. Entire nations watched with stricken grief the funeral of a man who I believe was one of the most remarkable and impressive leaders of our time. A man called by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell “a friend and a strong example of generosity, wisdom, drive and forgiveness”. He is the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan.
A good part of Sheikh Zayed’s eighty-six years were spent in the service of his country; the United Arab Emirates. Born in 1918, Sheikh Zayed grew up during a time when all of the states along the Trucial Coast (now known as the Arabian Gulf) were under the United Kingdom’s suzerainty meaning that the United Kingdom controlled the countries’ international affairs yet allowed it a certain independence in domestic rule. The local Arab leaders signed the treaty with Britain in 1853 with the aim of providing their coast with the protection of the British military and preventing pirates from staging attacks on British ships.
Nevertheless, the region remained undeveloped, without a single modern school anywhere and an economy that depended for the most part on fishing and trade. The only schooling of any kind that Sheikh Zayed himself received was in the basic principles of Islam from the local Islamic preacher who taught him the Qur’an, and the ways of the lenient yet fair hand of the Prophet Mohammed as a leader of the Muslim people, which greatly impressed the young Sheikh Zayed. He took to following in the footsteps of the Prophet and became an avid learner. His thirst for knowledge sent him into the desert to learn the traditional survival skills of the Bedouin tribesmen. I am quite certain it was during those years of growing into manhood that the late leader came to understand about human existence, the important need for natural resources, the natives and the land. Read more of this article »
Posted in Op-Ed, United Arab Emirates