“No matter how many buildings, foundations, schools and hospitals we build, or how many bridges we raise, all these are material entities. The real spirit behind progress is the human spirit…” – Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan
As the UAE celebrates five decades of outstanding achievements and milestones, one thing I’m most proud of is our diversity and human spirit. The intermingling of cultures, human connections and unique skills make the UAE a melting pot of diversity. It’s our population who have catapulted the UAE to having global reach through giant strides in education, trade, technology, diplomacy and more.
It’s a journey that began with some of the oldest trade ties between the Gulf and other nations stretching from East Africa to the subcontinent; a time dominated by spices and pearls, when barter prevailed over banknotes.
There’s a beautiful photo of a Diwali dinner in my father’s album from the 1950s that was hosted by an Indian trader and attended by the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum along with my father.
Even before the unification, the first generation of traders had already called the UAE their home. Since then, our leaders have embraced expatriates from diverse backgrounds with a genuine urge to exchange knowledge and together develop our nation.
Fifty years on, the UAE is now home to 190-plus nationalities, the country’s future is being shaped and strengthened by our diverse population. Within the Easa Saleh Al Gurg (ESAG) Group itself, some of our team members have been with us for the past 50 years since our humble beginning, as a four-person company in a tiny office nestled away in Bur Dubai.
A land of opportunities
As a thriving trading hub, our country’s entrepreneurial spirit can be credited to industrious forefathers and the first generation of expatriates who journeyed by sea to arrive in a land of opportunity. In that sense the arrival of the Cosmos, Jashanmal, Regal and Varkey families over six decades ago was a crucial juncture in our history. Their experience and wisdom have been passed on from one generation to another, and through every wave of change each generation has adapted and evolved. The seeds of their entrepreneurial spirit continue to have a positive impact on our economy today.
Diversity has contributed to many other fields, not just trade. When the Federal National Council held its first session in February 1972, the leaders of our nation mostly comprised of Emirati men. Half a century on, a lot has changed. Today, as a true symbol of diversity, we not only have women, but also people of mixed heritage in the public sector making a significant difference.
Examples include Palestinian-Emirati father-daughter duo Zaki and Lana Nusseibeh. Zaki is both Cultural Advisor to the UAE President and Chancellor of UAE University, whilst his daughter is the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the UAE to the United Nations. We also have British-Emirati Mansoor Abulhoul, the UAE’s Ambassador to the UK. Diverse cultural influences, education and backgrounds are making countless contributions to the UAE’s vision for the future.
Easa Saleh Al Gurg (ESAG) founder and chairman with the UAE founding fathers.
Diversity and inclusion of women
In any society youth and women play a pivotal role in shaping the future. Today, the UAE has women in senior positions of leadership, like Noura Al Kaabi, the Minister of Culture and Youth, who is in turn advocating youth empowerment.
Increasing participation of women across all sectors of our economy is another strong area of focus. Trailblazing women like Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Technology and the chairperson of the UAE Space Agency, are already shifting the gender equation in otherwise historically male dominated sectors like space.
Encouragingly, we have also seen a steady rise in the number of female engineers and scientists. There is also a clear push for more women, not only in the workplace, but in leadership roles. In our organisation itself, there are three women at the board-level steering the family business, with our vice chairperson & managing directo, Dr Raja Easa Al Gurg, at the helm.
Finally, we aspire to become a stronger and more diversified economy. While trade will always remain a key focus area, efforts are increasingly in place to develop a knowledge-based, sustainable economy.
A variety of complementary initiatives and programs are underway to achieve food security, become energy efficient, preserve the environment, foster entrepreneurship, develop our cultural and heritage offerings and strengthen our global partnerships.
Significant investments are being made in the fields of scientific research, inventions, advanced and human sciences while nurturing the future generation of artists, creators and change makers.
Looking ahead, as we prepare for the next 50, the possibilities are truly endless.
Author : Muna Easa Al Gurg