At 48, the UAE has much to cel­e­brate

▶ Young Emi­ratis are hold­ing up the achieve­ments of their fore­fa­thers and writ­ing his­tory

The National - News - - OPINION -

On De­cem­ber 2, 1971, dozens of tribal lead­ers, jour­nal­ists and po­lit­i­cal agents crowded into a room in Union House, which be­came so crammed that some had to clam­ber on to the ta­ble and climb out of the win­dow to es­cape. As those present on the day the treaty to cre­ate the UAE was signed would tes­tify, it was a re­mark­able mo­ment. Forty-eight years on, there have been many more re­mark­able mo­ments. Since that aus­pi­cious day, the UAE has un­der­gone a mas­sive trans­for­ma­tion from a land of Be­douin ek­ing out a tough ex­is­tence in the desert to a world-class fi­nan­cial and tourism hub at­tract­ing the best tal­ent from around the world. In the past five decades, the UAE has cel­e­brated Na­tional Day in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion to hon­our the le­gacy of its founders. While the day is an im­por­tant time to look back and re­flect on the coun­try’s pro­found achieve­ments, it also gives pause to look for­ward to the next 50 years, and to a new gen­er­a­tion of Emi­ratis who will be help­ing to cat­a­pult the coun­try into the fu­ture. Most were not alive when the coun­try was formed. Some have yet to reach adult­hood. But they are al­ready be­gin­ning to shape the na­tion’s fu­ture and carve out a new le­gacy.

Among them are Amna Al Qubaisi, who at the age of 19, has her sights set on be­com­ing the first Arab woman to take part in a For­mula One race. The teenager has al­ready won her first For­mula Four race and plans to com­pete in a field which has seen few women reach the up­per ech­e­lons any­where in the world.

Then there is na­tional hero Hazza Al Man­souri, who be­came the first Emi­rati as­tro­naut. In Septem­ber, Maj Al Man­souri spent eight days on the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion, in­spir­ing a whole gen­er­a­tion to reach for the stars. “The launch sparked some­thing in the souls of kids, not just here but across the whole Arab re­gion,” he said last month at his first pub­lic ap­pear­ance since re­turn­ing to Earth. “I be­lieve they are al­ready in­spired and will fol­low their dreams and do some­thing great.” Maj Al Man­souri’s words res­onated with a new gen­er­a­tion of Emi­ratis who are not afraid of tak­ing their des­tiny into their hands. They are al­ready carv­ing out names for them­selves and mak­ing their na­tion proud: peo­ple such as sci­ence prodigy Alia Al Man­soori, a 16-year-old sci­en­tific re­search fel­low at New York Univer­sity Abu Dhabi, who won an as­tron­omy prize last year that led to her con­cep­tual cre­ation be­ing launched into space. While the na­tion has a fu­tur­is­tic vi­sion, it has never for­got­ten its core val­ues, among them tol­er­ance. This year, the Year of Tol­er­ance, be­gan with Pope Fran­cis’s land­mark visit to Abu Dhabi. Not only was this visit a strong sym­bol of co-ex­is­tence, it al­lowed mil­lions of Chris­tian wor­ship­pers to see the Pope in the Arab world. There are many oth­ers like Ms Al Qubaisi and Maj Al Man­souri. They are the peo­ple who will shape the UAE for the next 50 years. As much as Na­tional Day is about re­mem­ber­ing what has gone be­fore, this is their day too: an op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate all the peo­ple who have made the UAE the coun­try it is to­day and will take it to new heights.

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