The last of the founding fathers of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) passed away yesterday (dawn of Wednesday) and it was a little embarrassing how I learned about it.
It is my habit to check the world news with emphasis on those related to the Philippines and the Gulf each morning before commencing my office work and even during the weekend. But because I was at the training/annual forum in Dubai during the first half of this week, I deviated since I had to catch up with a lot of things. One of which, I was trying to reach the line of one of my officemates to give a backgrounder about our meeting. I called the person next to her instead, “Is she in today?”, I inquired. “No. Haven’t you heard? She has to go there. Her Uncle passed away.” She replied. I simply exclaimed an “oh…”, only to realize later who is her Uncle.
I honestly felt guilty for not knowing, considering the sensitivity of the situation. The person I was intending to speak to is actually a Sheikha (a female member of the royal family). However, due to her humble nature, she made us feel and treat her a normal officemate. No labels. The next thing I did was to send my condolences through the email which she immediately replied through the Blackberry.
The last of the founding fathers, Shaikh Saqr Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, was the Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah (the coldest place in the UAE that it even snowed in January 2009). Unlike in other monarchies, the succession which happens by order of birth, he was succeeded by his fourth son, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi (formerly the Crown Prince). The selection happens by identifying the most qualified person (among the sons, normally from different mothers) and it must be accepted by the proposed successor and rulers of the other emirates (labeled as the Supreme Council or as I call in tagalog Ang Supremo), to be in effect.
(Photo taken in 1973: The UAE leaders)
The late Shaikh Saqr contributed a lot to the UAE. His dedication is truly admirable and made me look back at how our own founders of the Philippines sacrificed to a greater extent. The UAE was born in December of 1971 and from nothing but only vision and resources, look at the rate the people and things are going. (Many visions ago, our Philippines started with the same and with more, hence, the hope is never ending.) Just a little refresher for people like me who was almost clueless before coming to UAE in early 2008, I thought that it was only Abu Dhabi and Dubai which comprise the UAE. Worse, I even presumed that the two emirates are different countries. And upon learning that there are other five emirates namely Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Umm al-Quwain, and Ras Al Khaimah, only then I realized that Abu Dhabi is its capital and not Dubai.
Finding out that Shaikh Saqr was the last founding fathers of the UAE was a little coincidental, too. It happened (only) last night when we were waiting for the announcement through the net that the government offices in the entire UAE will be closed for 7 days. Hence, I have clicked on almost every article that talks about him hoping to find the confirmation that indeed, we will have 7 days off. (In this part of the globe, the long weekends do not easily happen like in the Philippines wherein there is holiday economics. Normally, it is trigged by Islamic celebrations or when a member of the royal and ruling family dies. It is, of course, evil and illogical to hope that someone will die just for the luxury of toying with probabilities. Although when I was younger, I used to pray that there will be a super typhoon, so that the classes will be suspended. How selfish we can be during those days eh?)
For the meantime, some events were either postponed or cancelled, including the public launch of the Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi (the world’s largest and first Ferrari theme park), which was moved to 4th of November. After much anticipation that there will be 7 days of mourning + work off in the entire UAE, it turned out that it is only applicable to other emirates excluding Abu Dhabi and Dubai. I agree that mourning can actually happen without interrupting the business. However, the announcement surprised some of the UAE nationals and expatriates (especially the expectants). Just as the UAE progresses, the modification of the practices swings with it. And it is more glaring to take effect for Abu Dhabi and Dubai being the more active and known emirates. I think that the decision has something to do with the anticipated long break by second week of November because of the Eid.
May Shaikh Saqr Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi rest in peace.