Not all country leaders are alike but I admire those who spread wisdom throughout their country in order to enhance every single aspect of their people’s lifestyle, such as our former President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan. Aware of his instincts, our leader was an earth and desert lover who loved falconry and horses and bred camels in order to preserve the natural heritage of his country. His love for the environment and culture was infinite and he was committed to each member of society.
Our late leader contributed to the preservation of several kind of endangered plant, bird, and animal species in order to restore and sustain our country’s environmental balance. He also cared for the marine environment by enacting laws and regulations to protect marine biodiversity and establish seawater desalination plants – both of which have become among our most important natural resources.
Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan also spurred a cultural evolution that made life easier for the people and gave them everything they needed in terms of public services and facilities, including much needed hospitals and schools. His beliefs were founded on the values of benevolence and of “true” richness – he is not a mentor for persecutors.
Abu Dhabi’s oilfields played a significant role in the realisation of this big change, although it was really challenging for the people compared to other rich countries with similar natural resources. Nothing like this had ever been realized by the Emirates, and we benefitted from the scientific contribution of several other Arabic and Islamic countries.
Sheikh Zayed became an environmental leader who was honored with important scientific awards. We all knew about his commitment to setting up environmentally friendly public buildings, and it is thanks to his efforts that civilization among the Emirates bloomed so beautifully.
On the one hand there is our leader, a man who demonstrated concern for our environment while also restoring peace and health. We have to ensure there is leftover natural wealth for future generations and that life on earth remains healthy for future ages. Indeed this is our responsibility, and Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, my hero, demonstrated incredible focus in this regard.
When I was 6 years-old, this great leader came for lunch at my house and wanted me to sit next to him. He asked me, “what is your name? What is your big dream?”
I told him, “My name is Abdul Aziz and I will tell you my dream when I am older.”
He also said something that I will never forget, “We need to look to nature in the future, because nature allows human life to flourish. It would be unfair to allow animals to die. We need to be fair with nature in order to have peace.”
This column was translated from Arabic into English by Silvia Gandolfo, a translator and interpreter based in France. She can be reached at silviagandolfo [at] hotmail [dot] it.
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