8th Emirates Airline Festival of Literature
To view the video recording of the speech please press here
Friday, 11 March 2016 (5-6 pm)
InterContinental Event Centre, Dubai Festival City (Conference room: Al Ras 2)
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
(In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful)
(Peace Be Upon You)
Mrs Isobel Abulhoul (Umm Mansour), Colonel Hareb bin Hadher, friends, ladies and gentleman. It gives me great pleasure to be here with you again, to give the 3rd Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor Lifetime Achievement Award, part of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.
I want to start my speech by thanking you, Umm Mansour, for all your efforts to make the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature the success it is today. You are an ambassador of the UAE to the World. As businessmen, we work hard, parallel to our leaders to raise the name of my country, the United Arab Emirates, high on the economic and investment arena. You are working just as hard to raise the name of the UAE in the cultural arena. Each year the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature gets better and better. Today the festival is recognised as the biggest event of its type in the region, attracting the world’s top authors, and I am proud to be part of it. For that, Umm Mansour, I salute you.
Because the UAE is a young nation, the world assumes that we are not culturally rich, but we are. I speak from personal experience. I was raised from a young age to learn and love poetry. As a child, my late father – Ahmad bin Mohamed Al Habtoor (الله يرحمه) – used to take me out into the desert with him, to teach me how to hunt and ride horses and camels. Come night time, we would share our dates with our camels and he would read me poetry by Al Mutanabbi, Ahmad Shawki, bin Dhaher, and his own poems.
The UAE is rich in so many ways in history and culture, and I am happy that the world is now starting to learn about our great thinkers, poets, writers, artists, both men and women. Which brings me to the reason we are gathered here this afternoon.
It is a great pleasure to be here today to honour my good friend; the late Mohammed Bin Hadher (Abu Khalid), one of the most renowned poets in the United Arab Emirates and the GCC. I knew Abu Khalid for many years and always admired his spirit and determination. He was forward thinking, a man before his time. He was a fountain of knowledge, a walking encyclopaedia. He was honest, always spoke the truth, no matter what, and above all, he was a man who saw the beauty in life, in love, in family, and in the nation.
Mohammed bin Hadher always wrote using classical Arabic. He was a man proud of our heritage and the culture of our country, and he was passionate about it. I would like to read you a few verses from one of his poems and ask you to forgive me ahead, because poetry is not a gift I was blessed with:-
هي تلك الفتاة الرَّداح البضَّة، التي كانت تُحَلِّق جمالاً على قمم السحاب
الحُسْنُ أحْمَرُ والحِسانُ وُرُوْدُ والعاشِقُونَ لدى الحِسَانِ عَبِيْدُ
يامَنْ فُتِنْتُ بِخَدِّها وبِثَغْرِها هَلْ لي إلى تِلْكَ الشِفَاهِ وُرُوْدُ؟
فَأَذْوقُ مِنْ شَفَتَيْكِ أَحْلَى خَمْرةٍ رُوْحَ الحَياةِ، إلى الَمواتِ تُعِيْدُ
حُلُمُ لِقَاؤُكِ لو تَحَقَّقَ مَرَّةً فالعُمْرُ عِيْدُ والحَياةُ خُلُوْدُ
By Mohammed bin Hadher, 2004
Abu Khalid, my friend, you are dearly missed. Men and women like Mohammed bin Hadher should be recognised, their legacy treasured for our children and grandchildren.
I want to call on our government today to name a landmark after Mohammed bin Hadher. Let people wonder who this man is and learn about him. Mohammed bin Hadher, Oosha bint Khalifa Al Suwedi “فتاة العرب” and many others, those are our true cultural ambassadors to the world, and we should honour them and keep their work alive.
I would like to express my gratitude to Abu Khalid’s family for being with us today to celebrate his life and his legacy. Thanks to people like Mohammed, the UAE has managed to retain its culture and heritage.
The UAE has evolved from a desert to a world-class country. It is today one of the wonders of the world. The UAE has done what other countries have failed to do. We have a strong and diversified economy which started with trading many years ago. To this day, trading is a large portion of our economy thanks to our location between Europe and the Far East.
Fishing and Pearling were once the main sources of income until the discovery of oil in 1962. People think of oil when they hear of the UAE. But oil is no longer the core of our rich and diverse economy. Despite the changing appearance of our landscape, we have preserved elements of our past. You can still experience desert life, falconry, visit fishing harbours, souks, museums and culture centres. You can still see camels roaming free. This is our past, and it should remain part of our future.
In just over four decades, we have transformed our Trucial States into a world-class country that is the envy of the world. Today, the United Arab Emirates is home to two of the world’s most famous museums – The Guggenheim and The Louvre. And we have home-grown museums, like the Women’s Museum, founded by Dr Rafia Ghubash – winner of the first Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2014.
I am proud to call this nation my home, and so are many expatriates from all over the world. They move their families here and they invest here, because they know the UAE offers them a sound investment with endless opportunities. The UAE provides them with homes and quality education for their children. It is a place where their businesses can thrive, and most importantly it offers them safety and security.
While other countries are shutting their doors to people based on colour or religion, the UAE welcomes everybody irrespective of their belief, race or nationality.
The UAE is the safe haven of the world.