Deaths of two Middle East leaders in the same week attracted weighted coverage – few learned the legacy of Sheikh Zayed

By Nancy Collisson

Sixteen years ago, within days, two prominent Middle East presidents died. Most people in the world can probably name one of them: Yasser Arafat. But who was the other one?

Upon their deaths, media coverage of the unique historical impact of the service of each seemed to confirm a commonly held belief that the majority of news organizations feel that their viewing, reading or listening audiences prefer reports on disaster, failure, and misery rather than on achievement, success, and harmony.

Such would provide one reason why the death of Palestinian National Authority President Arafat received a blitz of worldwide media attention, while that of United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, did not.

Comparing the disparate leadership styles of these men as well as international reporting that followed the close of their political reigns reveals a simple irony about the likely modern-day repercussions of what any of us does with the lots we are handed or opportunities we seize – the perpetually squeaky wheel continually gets the grease, but never the real glory.

Excluding the fact that results of the US Presidential election dominated most world press reports on the date that the death of Sheikh Zayed was formally announced, and that a measure of controversy – the proverbial pre-requisite for publicity – brought public attention to his think-tank namesake, the Sheikh Zayed International Centre for Coordination and Follow Up (which led Sheikh Zayed to order its closing), Sheikh Zayed’s passing warranted much more coverage than the approximately four minutes allotted it in a report given by CNN International anchor Zane Verjee on November 2nd of 2004.

But we can forgive CNN. Throughout his life, Sheikh Zayed remained relatively unknown and underexposed by media outside the general perimeter of his country (smaller than Maine); organizations or countries to which he donated billions in financial assistance, goods, services or facilities; and in Britain, Spain, and Switzerland where he maintained homes.

Then again, at the dignifying age of 85, he may have wanted to exit quietly, as throughout his life he seemed generally to follow the proper course of a traditional Muslim. He remained accessible while going about his business without generating inordinate fanfare.

Indeed, how many in the West were aware that he was one of the wealthiest men in the world? How many fewer could describe any of the amazing things he did to help people throughout it?

Father factor

Much compassion for Palestinians had been elicited through the repeated fact that as Arafat ruled for four decades he was the “only father” that Palestinians had ever known.

At the age of 17, Arafat took up the cause of Israeli resistance and ended up leading that same, relentlessly painful cause for as long as he could still generate solidarity by raising his fist. Upon learning that he had succumbed to a nameless illness in a foreign hospital on November 11th, thousands of his devotees flooded the streets of Ramallah to share their collective shock at what his death represented – the loss of an icon of martyrdom and the only model of leadership that most of his young population had ever experienced.

During the 33 years of Sheikh Zayed’s presidency (successively won in internal elections held every five years), he too had come to represent the only father of the country that many UAE citizens had ever known.

When news of Sheikh Zayed’s passing became public, a similarly widespread but more emotionally restrained weight of gratitude was borne by thousands of UAE citizens and expatriate residents who witnessed his final ride in a cavalcade through the capital city of Abu Dhabi.

As he passed, calls of “Baba (Father) Zayed” were made by kandoura-clad men standing abreast on one side of the streets, and by women wearing black abayas waiting on the opposite.

Facilitate not stagnate

The dramatically solemn site enhanced a palpable sense of loss and appreciation for the many rare blessings UAE citizens were able to enjoy not only because he ensured an equitable distribution of countless benefits that oil brought his young nation, but more importantly as a result of his progressive and benevolent leadership, insight, foresight, and inclination to facilitate rather than stagnate.

Throughout his life, Sheikh Zayed’s actions demonstrated a priority of caring for others. From agriculture to education, policies implemented ensured social welfare, economic stability, and opportunity.

In that regard, he was nothing like other famously wealthy, monarchical leaders of countries with exquisite natural beauty and immense mineral wealth who easily come to mind in comparison – Soeharto in Indonesia, Marcos in the Philippines.

As Bedouin or billionaire, Sheikh Zayed’s humble and practical as well as generous contributions were beyond compare and extended far beyond his shores – even to the US.

As a Bedouin who had experienced and witnessed the effects of hunger, poverty, oppressive heat, and thirst, when the opportunity was presented to him to try and provide a happier life for his fellow Bani Yas tribesmen and others living along the Gulf Coast region near the present UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed acted quickly to take advantage of it.

In Al Ain, Sheikh Zayed demonstrated interest in agriculture and began to improve its ancient irrigation systems and to experiment with and increase crops. In initial attempts he was notably successful with cabbage. In a land where caravan traders were frequently ravaged for their goods, word of his humble industriousness and care for others spread along the coast like sand in a sirocco.

While still in his teens during the 1930s, he guided expeditions of outlying desert regions of Abu Dhabi to U.S. oil company representatives. His many tours eventually led to their discovery of commercial-grade oil there and its first export in 1962.

By that time, Sheikh Zayed had been appointed Ruler’s Representative in the oasis region emirate of Al Ain (neighbor to the emirate of Abu Dhabi) by his elder and, as became relevant later, less politically dynamic brother Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who was then Ruler of Abu Dhabi.

The Al Nahyans

The Nahyan tribe had acquired its status as rulers of Al Ain through a legacy left by generations earlier. In 1892, representatives of the British government signed a formal agreement in Abu Dhabi with Sheikh Zayed’s grandfather, “Sheikh Zayed the Great,” authorizing the British to oversee foreign relations for what they had called the Trucial States that lined the Gulf Coast. The seven emirates of which the Trucial States were comprised were otherwise left to the autonomous rule of their respective leaders.

With the general decline of British colonialism worldwide and particularly in the Middle East, following that nation’s joint aggression with France and Israel against Egypt during the Suez War years earlier, the British withdrew in 1968 and terminated their treaty in 1971.

That same year, Sheikh Zayed succeeded, with the influence of fellow visionary and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, in coaxing the reins of leadership from his brother who had not been putting to use millions of dollars in revenue that started pouring in from sales of oil. The duo also succeeded in convincing each leader of the six other emirates to band together to form a nation. In so doing, Sheikh Zayed became both Ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the UAE.

Zayed Restoration

With motivation, will, and a powerful guiding religious faith, Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid continued to work together and treated their newfound opportunity like Japanese leaders before them who had guided the transformation of medieval Japan into a modern nation within a short time, at the turn of the 20th century.

Like the Japanese, they too studied the best models of physical and social infrastructure required to establish a foundation strong enough to allow their nation to become a globally respected and connected economic contender.

There was little time to waste. The Great Depression and collapse of the regional pearl trade – with the development of cultured pearls in Japan – had taken a tremendous toll on the local economy for decades. Everyone in the UAE, including the royal Al Nahyan family, had suffered greatly.

Maintaining the status quo – the unspoken policy of his elder brother – was never an option for Sheikh Zayed.

Beginning in Abu Dhabi, he simultaneously established systems for electricity, fresh water, and waste, and the construction of roads, hospitals, schools, and even cultural centers that would meet or exceed standards that he had admired in France and Great Britain during his visits to those countries in 1953.

Middle East visionaries

Together with Sheikh Rashid, who died in 1990 after having built in Dubai two of the largest and most crucial shipping ports in the world, Sheikh Zayed turned the UAE into an attractive and enduring hub of oil-based and diversified non-oil based economic activity. As a result of their joint efforts, the dynamic nation presently attracts dignitaries, celebrities, business leaders, property developers, and tourists from throughout the world.

TQM

Like Sheikh Rashid in Dubai, Sheikh Zayed also managed the nation much like a well-run business, such as the Hallmark Corporation. Just like the UAE, Hallmark maintains a top-down management style. Though the popular gift and greeting card manufacturer does not have unions, is consistently ranked by Fortune magazine as one of the best companies to work for in America because of actions its management takes to keep employees content. Among other benefits, it provides extensive profit-sharing programs, full health care, 100-percent educational funding for employees, and product discounts. Because what is standard in this company would be regarded as perks in others, Hallmark sustains remarkable employee loyalty and longevity.

Through dictates established by Sheikh Zayed, the UAE government provides remarkable benefits to its one million citizens – who seem as willing as Hallmark employees to sacrifice voting rights for long-term contentment and security.

Education

In terms of education, Sheikh Zayed established a system that affords UAE citizens a free education all the way to the Ph.D. level. Not only tuition, but also expenses for housing, meals, books, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses are covered.

Several universities have been established in the emirates, including notable offshoots of prestigious under-grad and graduate schools based in the US (Michigan State), the UK. The United Arab Emirates University, built in Abu Dhabi by Sheikh Zayed in 1977, is presently the only university in the UAE that meets US standards of certification. It has an enrollment of 17,000 – the majority of whom happen to be women. Since the late 1980s, women graduates have outnumbered men by a ratio of two to one at that university. Similar enrollment ratios are found at other national universities.

Opportunities for Women

Women are always a hot topic in the Middle East. Under terms of the UAE Constitution, female citizens are entitled to the same legal status as their male counterparts to receive an education, claim titles, work, and divorce, but the latter is obtained with more muddling in courts than men experience.

The former president’s wife, Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, has encouraged women to take advantage of all rights available to women through her establishment of the UAE Women’s Federation, the works of which her husband frequently promoted.

As a result of Sheikha Fatima’s efforts, UAE women are beginning to provide a higher proportion than men of the national and, increasingly, private workforce. A study by the Administrative Development Institute found that as far back as 1988, 82 percent of UAE workers under the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health were women – a statistic that belies commonly held misconceptions about women’s rights in the Middle East. Local women presently can be found occupying senior posts primarily in government, banking, education, and technology services.

Employment

To provide the fundamental element of time, essential to the enduring strength of families everywhere, standard working hours for all UAE government employees, including expatriates, are from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

These early office closings not only hold with the regional desert tradition of taking a midday rest, but also and primarily, now, are regarded as essential to protecting family harmony. The hours are conducive to allowing families plenty of time to spend together or to pursue outside interests and education. Government positions also offer a relatively generous maternity leave package.

Labor practices & OLs

Employees in the UAE who find themselves in situations, for example, in which employers fail to pay on time or fairly, have avenues of resolution. They may lodge such complaints with Ministry of Labour officials in offices located throughout the emirates. Such cases are generally resolved within days or weeks and are frequently accompanied by the additional sting of disgrace brought through broad news coverage of the situation and ensuing battery of letters to the editor posted in the major daily newspapers.

No visitor to the UAE with a healthy conscience can help but reel at the perceived level of difficulty for the thousands of expatriate laborers in the country who withstand temperatures of more than 100 degrees each day for months at a time while working at construction sites, in particular, that sprout throughout the emirates. Yet money and opportunities that such harsh employment provides has been a boon to overseas laborers (OLs) and their parent countries, including and primarily Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, and the Philippines.

As quickly as these and other OLs, who generally fill ranks in the service sector, cash their paychecks, they generally just as quickly wire a large portion of their pay back home to their families who rely on their contributions.

Their sacrifice often provides an essential revenue base for their home countries, many of which, such as the Philippines, rank human labor (above pineapples) as its number-one export.

Expatriate labor has also singularly allowed the UAE to develop at a spectacular pace – a point never lost on Sheikh Zayed or other UAE leaders.

Along with providing low-income housing especially designed for overseas laborers and their families, the UAE government has established laws that require business owners who employ OLs to provide them with adequate accommodations, salaries, and the full cost of round-trip tickets to their home countries for annual or bi-annual trips that can extend from one to three months, in general.

Housing

Among the highest of Sheikh Zayed’s priorities had always been that of ensuring the health, safety, and comfort of UAE citizens. To that end, he provided plots of land and villas for Abu Dhabi citizens. The other six UAE presidents provide similarly to citizens born of families that are natives of their respective emirates.

Thousands of the homes built for citizens under his directive can be seen while driving along Sheikh Zayed Highway, which connects Dubai to Abu Dhabi. Closer to the capital, one sees countless white villas, many of them accented with onion dome window frames trimmed in pale green paint, both characteristic of Muslim décor. These represent only the most visible of the homes he provided for Abu Dhabi citizens, who presently number approximately 30,000.

Utility bills

To counter household utility expenses, UAE citizens do not receive water bills. Those in senior government positions, including those who hold higher posts in police departments, do not pay electricity bills, either. Resident expatriates make up required amounts for expenses related to the generation of both utilities.

Families

The UAE Marriage Fund helps alleviate the destructive burden of debt to marriage faced by newly wedded couples.

In the UAE, newly married couples are generally expected to fulfill an important social obligation of fulfilling a few important and expensive traditions.

The home of the bride should be draped in thousands of bright white light bulbs. Wedding dinners sometimes include the stuffing of the belly of an entire camel with a mix of roast camel’s meat, lamb, hamour (the local fish), rice, and vegetables.

The elaborate wedding ceremony is held in two separate halls: one for men, one for women, and is replete with dinners, music, and gifts. These gifts may include 21-karat gold jewelry to guests. Occasionally the bride and groom, while seated on ornate chairs set upon an elaborately decorated stage, will toss piles of cash to them. As an example of peripheral indulgences, the arranging of tickets to camel or horse races as part of the festivities would not be unusual.

The Marriage Fund supplements the exorbitant sums spent, which average about $30,000.

Amounts also are regularly contributed by government funds upon the births of babies and on notable occasions in children’s lives.

Cooperatives

Government-run cooperative grocery stores – available to all UAE residents and visitors – offer discounted prices that can shave 20- to 30-percent of a bill for the same items that may be purchased at private grocery store chains

Environment, Jimmy Carter, and the BBC

Sheikh Zayed’s personal contribution to improving the environment of the UAE has included the outlawing of hunting as well as the implementation of vast programs of greenification and reforestation. His having ensured the planting of more than 150 million trees and 40 million palm trees ran parallel to the incredible scale of economic growth he was able to achieve.

His development of a nature preserve on Bani Yas Island near Abu Dhabi created a healthier habitat for wildlife and led to the increased propagation of previously declining native species of Arabian Oryx, sand gazelle, Arabian leopard, and turtles, among others. He also improved coastal ocean habitats in Abu Dhabi to increase the population of dugongs and other native aquatic species.

For his continuous dedication to the protection of wildlife, he was awarded the World Wildlife Fund Gold Panda Award in 1995.

To encourage efforts in environmental protection worldwide, he established the richest prize for such in the world. Valued at $1 million, recipients of the bi-annually awarded Sheikh Zayed International Award for the Environment have included Jimmy Carter and the BBC each awarded $500,000 in 2001.

Water

To achieve the remarkable environmental goals that have been attained in the UAE, one element has been key: water.

Despite its rank as one of the tiniest countries in the world – with among the lowest rate of annual rainfall – its inordinate use of fresh water has given the UAE the dubious distinction of having the highest rates of water consumption, per-capita, in the world, averaging about 80 gallons per day, per person in a nation with four million residents.

Perhaps too, the UAE spends more money than any other country for this water. Seventy percent of its sweet water is generated at desalination plants, the rest is drawn from wells, many of which themselves are “injected” with desalinated water just to keep them from becoming brackish. Rates of desalination in the UAE accounts for 12.5 percent of the world total.

To help curb the use of water, programs have been implemented at schools, in particular, to heighten conscientiousness about the environment and to encourage general conservation practices.

Bio-saline agriculture

In 1999, the Guinness Book of World Records acknowledged that Sheikh Zayed had developed the world’s largest bio-saline agricultural park. At 20,000 square meters, the site (located in Al Ain), utilizes irrigated seawater to grow 45 species of genetically modified herbs, vegetables, and fruits, most notably strawberries, which are exported throughout Europe.

Mayo Clinic, Capistrano School

Philanthropic contributions, of Sheikh Zayed, posted at the website of his Sheikh Zayed Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation (complete with ISO-9001 Certification) and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development have provided more than $5 billion for various causes in forty countries.

It may be calculated that hundreds of hospitals, medical wings, and schools and university fellowships and chairs throughout the world have been named after Sheikh Zayed because he contributed to their founding.

In October of 2004, it was announced by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, that in 1996, when he received medical attention at the world-renowned hospital, Sheikh Zayed initiated a donation of $25 million to it. Dedication for the “Mayo Zayed Cardiovascular Clinic” is due to take place next year.

During his stay at the hospital, at that time, he provided financial coverage for four other patients who were staying at the same time.

One of his other notably memorable contributions in the US included $15,000 that he sent in 2003 to the Las Flores Elementary School in San Juan Capistrano, California. Prior to his forwarding the amount, the school had been on the brink of closing unless it could raise a total of $40,000.

Through a last-ditch fund-raising effort, its students were encouraged to inform relatives of the predicament. A grandmother to one of the students got word to Sheikh Zayed, who promptly contributed the sum. The school was saved.

Although a large donation for a fairly small community, the donor would likely have remained anonymous if not for the fact that, at about that same time, Sheikh Zayed had made a donation to Harvard University that resulted in controversy.

Harvard controversy

After learning that Sheikh Zayed had donated $2.5 million to the Harvard Divinity School to endow a chair in Islamic studies, department student Rachel Fish ran research on him.

She discovered that individuals who had expressed views against Israeli and American policies in the Middle East, as well as some with blatantly anti-Semitic views had been invited to speak at the Sheikh Zayed International Centre for Coordination and Follow Up.

The ZCCF, a think tank sponsored by the Arab League, had been named for the UAE president who, ironically, apart from humble studies in Islam, had no formal education.

The stated intent of the Centre was to achieve “maximum integration among the Arab countries through coordination of their activities in the political sphere as well as in the fields of economics, social services, education, communications, development, technology and industrialization.”

To that end, the Centre had featured notable dignitaries including former US President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter, former US Secretary of State James Baker, former US Vice President Al Gore, and Florida Governor and brother to US President George Bush, Neil Bush.

According to widely published reports, Fish also noticed that the ZCCF provided a forum for the opinions of, what she termed, “Holocaust deniers” Roger Garaudy and David Irving, as well as of conspiracy theorist Thierry Meyssan, French author of the “The Appalling Fraud.” In his lecture at the Centre, Meyssan questioned the authenticity of the September 11 attacks.

Within days of her discovery, Ms. Fish presented a letter detailing her findings to Harvard Dean William A. Graham requesting that the university reject the donation of Sheikh Zayed on moral grounds.

Supporting her effort was the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

Harvard response

When a listing of Fish’s complaints at Harvard was brought to the attention of Sheikh Zayed in May of 2003, he immediately ordered the closure of the Centre, an act that was finalized three months later.

About his decision, his office issued the following press release: “His Highness Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan has always been a strong advocate of interfaith tolerance and harmony among religions, as constantly reflected in his words and actions. This respect for all faiths is a basic principle of Islam, to which His Highness has firmly adhered … Thus, when it came to the attention of His Highness that the Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow Up had engaged in a discourse that starkly contradicted the principles of inter-faith tolerance, directives were issued for the immediate closure of the Centre.”

About Sheikh Zayed’s decisive action, representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, expressed gratitude. The Center describes itself at its website as one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with a membership of over 400,000 families in the United States. The Center is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, and the OSCE.

Associate Dean of the Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Abraham Cooper said, “Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan’s decision to close the Arab League’s controversial think tank bearing his name is the first time an Arab head of state has openly acknowledged and dealt with the scourge of anti-Semitism.

“We hope that Sheikh Zayed’s honest and bold action will inspire other Arab leaders to follow in his footsteps and end the campaign of vilification of the Jewish people. The Wiesenthal Center … looks forward to working with Sheikh Zayed and other like- minded leaders of the Arab and Muslim world on behalf of tolerance and mutual understanding.”

Although Dean Graham initially stated that he found the result of Ms. Fish’s findings to be “repugnant” and “indefensible,” he decided to gather more information before taking any rash or decisive action on the donation, but initially commented that Harvard does not have a practice of returning donations.Ultimately, Sheikh Zayed himself diplomatically resolved the situation this past July, by discretely requesting of Harvard that the amount be returned – and it was.

America’s ‘war on terror’

Under the leadership of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE has demonstrated support for recent US military action in the region in several ways. Primarily these include immediately condemning the terrorist attacks of September 11, severing ties with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and pledging to ensure that terror groups could not penetrate domestic banks system for the purpose of money laundering.

Further affirming the strength of its relationship with the US as a long-time political ally, Sheikh Zayed presented US Army General Tommy Franks with the Emirates Military Order of First Class – the highest military honor in the UAE – after Franks helped to coordinate the campaign that led to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in the spring of 2003.

In conferring the honor Sheikh Zayed stated that it was made “in appreciation of [General Franks’] role in promoting cooperation and friendship between the UAE and the United States of America, particularly in the military field.”

UAE-Palestine

Sheikh Zayed’s immense generosity to ordinary individuals and charitable causes throughout the world included hundreds of millions, if not more, to Palestine, primarily in the form of aid and reconstruction. Despite his personal outrage over Israeli aggression, he never condoned violent means to ending the conflict. His greatest contribution was always toward making the lives of Palestinians as comfortable as possible.

Often in coordination with the Red Crescent Society and the United Nations Relief Workers Agency, he funded the construction there of hospitals and their start-up costs. He also took care of construction costs for roads, airstrips, and large housing projects in refugee camps – including the reconstruction of Jenin following the highly publicized attack there by Israel in 2003.

Sheikh Zayed repeatedly sought the influence of the US in leading Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territories.

“The US has to stand forcefully and clearly this time on the side of justice, fairness and international legitimacy and should not let Israel be above the international law,” he said two years ago following a UN Security Council Resolution 1402 – calling for Israel to stop its unfair war of aggression against Palestinians.

Though money donated directly to Arafat, as head of the PNA, not only by Sheikh Zayed but other world leaders and governments, including the US, could have gone a long way to improving lives of long-suffering Palestinians – it did not. To what extent they have suffered from lack of adequate infrastructure, medical care, education, career opportunities or even the hope that they might enjoy such amenities in the future is due to his failures of achievement or Israeli oppression and aggression is a matter of global debate that will continue for a long time. Meanwhile, they continue to suffer.

Destined for martyrdom

To what extent Arafat’s childhood demons may have contributed to his endless, tortuous struggle against Israel is another question for the history books. Continuous tragedies in his childhood reflect a sorrowful life fraught with pain that he may have been unwilling to assuage, lest it cause him to lose all sense of the only type of life he had ever known or understood.

After having lost his mother when he was five years old, he was sent by his father to live with his aunt and uncle in Palestine. There he is said to have witnessed the ransacking of that house by British soldiers, which was terrifying for him. He seemed to have lost all apparent affection for his father, demonstrated when he chose to not attend his funeral. It is said that by the age of 17, he was running arms to Palestine.

Delicate diplomacy

Like Arafat, Sheikh Zayed was a proud and forward-looking young man when he acquired the reins of power. But his pride was driven by a fervent desire and commitment to look after the people in his country and provide them with the absolute best opportunities and care that, money (about $150 million, per day) and old-fashioned desert wisdom could provide.

While money went a long way to helping him establish what is now the country with among the highest average per-capita incomes in the world, with the highest growth rate, it was always the values of work, health, education, fairness, equality for women, a spirit of cooperation, and abiding respect for peaceful solutions that led Sheikh Zayed to provide a dignified and decent life for his citizens.

Islamic influence

Unlike what seemed to be the case for Arafat, to Sheikh Zayed their driving faith of Islam was not fatalistic.

“Islamic faith is submission to the will of God,” he said, “but not of accepting one’s lot without seeking to improve it. It is one that enjoins every believer to do what he can to help the less fortunate, and to treat every human being as equal.

“It is Islam that asks every Muslim to respect every person. Not, I emphasize, special people, but every person, In short, to treat every person, no matter what his race or creed, as a special soul is a mark of Islam. It is just such a point, embodied in Islam’s tenets, that makes us proud of Islam. To be together, to trust each other as human beings, to behave as equals.”

Throughout his life, Sheikh Zayed seemed to be revered more for his humility, sense of fair play, and sensible, caring leadership than for his wealth. About his humble Bedouin manner British historian Sir Wilfred Thesiger commented that what he admired about Sheikh Zayed was that “he always listens carefully to what people have to say about the problems they face.”

His unique ability to listen, consider, envision, to build consensus and act, and to apply delicate diplomacy in matters large and small made Sheikh Zayed a global model of effective and successful leadership, albeit one that was relatively unknown.

His peaceful reign — little studied or understood in the West – ostensibly, was the very thing that deprived the world of extensive media coverage that could have allowed more to witness his valuable example. His achievements, which could have been brought to life through a bit more international media coverage of his death, might have served to revive his example, now that he has left the political stage.

It will ever seem a pity that more leaders, especially those who knew him best, failed to take advantage of the opportunity to follow his example while he was here.

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