2018 marks 100 years since the birth of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan — the founding father of the UAE — and it has been deemed the Year of Zayed. It started with a tribute to the late Sheikh in the light show at Burj Khalifia on New Year’s Eve and will carry on throughout the year.
Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has stated that the Year of Zayed will mean the theme of the year is “tolerance”, which seems appropriate given the nature of Sheikh Zayed’s leadership.
Here are seven things you may not have known about the Father of the Nation.
He believed that any ruler should serve the people
“The ruler, any ruler, is only there to serve his people and secure for them prosperity and progress. To achieve this, he should live among his people to feel their wishes and know their problems, and this cannot be achieved if he isolates himself from them.”
He was a feminist
Among his beliefs was the idea of female empowerment through education and he once said, “the woman is half of the society; any country which pursues development should not leave her in poverty or illiteracy.” He also wanted the UAE to have equal rights for women and went on to say, “I hope that the women in my country will follow their sisters in those countries which have previously made the adjustment to the procession of progress and development.”
He welcomed a free press
Sheikh Zayed said that “the Press has the duty as well as the right to criticize. We welcome constructive criticism.”
His education came from the Bedouin
In the late 1920s he moved to Al Ain but there were no modern schools there, so he only received a basic education in the principles of Islam while living in the desert with Bedouin tribesmen. There, he learned about the life of the people, their traditions and ability to survive in a harsh climate.
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He was open to political change, if the people want it
“I am not imposing change on anyone., that is tyranny,” he once said. “All of us have our opinions, and these opinions can change. Sometimes we put all opinions together, and then extract from them a single point of view. This is our democracy.” He also said, “Our system of government is based on our religion, and is what our people want. Should they seek alternatives, we are ready to listen to them. We are all in the same boat, and they are both captain and crew.”
He encouraged young Emiratis to develop a sound work ethic
“It is my duty as the leader of the young people of this country to encourage them to work and to exert themselves in order to raise their own standards and to be of service to the country. The individual who is healthy and of a sound mind and body but who does not work commits a crime against himself and society.”
And finally… he once bought a house from Ringo Starr
In 1989 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan bought Tittenhurst Park in Ascot, England, for £5 million. Starr had bought it in 1973 from John Lennon, who in turn had bought the house for £145,000 from Peter Cadbury of the chocolate empire. Lennon had built a recording studio in the house and it was here he recorded most of the Imagine album. The last ever Beatles photo session was taken there with images used on the cover of the Hey Jude album