Al Habtoor Group 40th Anniversary Gala Dinner

01 May 2010
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Bismillah al-rahman al-rahim

Dear guests

Thank you for joining with us to celebrate the Al Habtoor Group’s 40th anniversary.

I feel truly blessed to be surrounded by so many friends, associates and colleagues this evening.

If someone had told me 40 years ago that the modest construction company I formed with my dear friend Riad Sadik would become what Al Habtoor Group is today, I wouldn’t have believed them.

They say experience is a hard teacher, because she gives the test first and the lesson afterwards.

That was certainly true in my case.

As a young man I was business-oriented and driven by the need to take care of my own expanding family.

Thankfully, during those simple, uncomplicated times, I was privileged to have an inspirational mentor.

At a time when the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum was working more than 16 hours a day on Dubai’s development, he never failed to offer his encouragement and moral support.

He was a man who you couldn’t help but love and admire.

I will always be grateful to Sheikh Rashid for entrusting us with several important projects when there were so many International construction companies around with far more experience.

It was unthinkable to let him down … and we didn’t.

Recently, during the financial crisis, which by the way I call Judgement day, it was the spirit of Sheikh Rashid that inspired me to lead my team during those very difficult times. Looking back, I believe this crisis was a blessing in disguise. Our group emerged stronger, financially healthier and more successful.

I was recently asked whether I think young people have it easier nowadays. And, you know, I don’t think they do. It’s true that youngsters here enjoy material comforts and there is so much more for them to do in terms of leisure. But the 21st century is demanding. Life has never been as complex or as competitive as it is now, when the world has become a global village.

Their challenges were not ours. This is why I was determined that my own children would receive the best education and discipline. Sadly, not all children have the same opportunities. Many struggle against the ravages of poverty. Some have been victims of natural disasters or conflicts.

Others are born physically or mentally challenged. I believe that we all have a responsibility to help children in distress everywhere according to our means. For many deprived children education is a way out of their misery. It enables them to support themselves and achieve a measure of independence.

Ignorance can often translate to evil. Knowledge is power.

This belief was the motivation behind the launching of our campaign to assist the Red Crescent’s efforts to educate children with special needs.

With wealth comes responsibility.

I have been particularly fortunate in that respect and now I feel it is time to give back.

Sheikh Zayed, the Father of our Nation, was right when he said “It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least an equal amount of what he takes out of it”.

Putting back, or giving, should be done without any discrimination based on nationality, race, sex, religious beliefs, class or political opinions.

I would call on everyone present today to help change lives with a donation to his or her favourite charity or to someone you know who is in need. It doesn’t matter how large or small the sums involved because every little counts. If you are unable to donate cash you can give something just as precious – your time.

Together we can make a difference!

Finally, I would like to thank Riad Sadik for his faith in joining his hands with mine when we had nothing, and for his commitment to excellence over the years.

Thanks also to my long-time advisors and directors, on whose wisdom I rely, and to all our loyal staff who have stayed with us through thick and thin since the beginning. My appreciation also goes to all our business partners and to everyone who has contributed to making the Al Habtoor Group successful. Without you I wouldn’t be standing before you today.

Once again, thank you for sharing this special day with us.

May Allah bless you all.

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