At 48, the UAE has much to celebrate
▶ Young Emiratis are holding up the achievements of their forefathers and writing history
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.