On Dec. 2, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) celebrates its national day. In 1971, after unification, the United Arab Emirates managed to transform themselves from desert areas inhabited by nomadic people into strong and economically developed states; a powerful federation with a standard of living considered today to be one of the highest not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world.
As Sheikh Zayed, the first President of the UAE, said, “The real wealth of the country is its people,” and special efforts should be made to ensure that people receive the best possible education, healthcare and social services and both men and women can fully play their important roles in the development of the country.
The UAE is a country where the spirit of tolerance between different nationalities, communities and faiths should prevail. At the same time, its own national culture and heritage must be protected and respected. Although locals profess the Islamic faith, the UAE currently has more than 40 churches and cathedrals, as well as places of worship for other religions.
Celebration of the UAE’s National Day starts early in the morning of Dec. 2 and ends late in the evening of Dec. 3. The indigenous population of the state as well as foreigners participate in the celebrations. Residents hang national flags on the streets of every city. The biggest celebrations are in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where there are parades with patriotic music and other performances. Tens of thousands of people and tourists celebrate the national day on the streets of Dubai.
A distinctive feature of the celebration is a specific car decoration: Emiratis decorate their cars with flags and photographs of country’s rulers, trying to one-up each other with the best decorations. The fireworks on Dec. 2 and 3 are the most expensive in the UAE.
The local tourism industry continues to grow significantly, as the country prepares to welcome visitors from around the world for Dubai EXPO 2020. Around 160,000 hotel rooms are expected to open in Dubai by then. Dubai EXPO 2020 will be the first international exposition to take place in the region from Morocco to India. The event is expected to attract millions of visitors and create thousands of new jobs. Several key projects suspended during the recession in 2008 have been restarted and are under construction now.
Data published by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Administration (ADTCA) shows that in the first nine months of 2014, 2,498,672 guests checked into hotels in the UAE, 26 percent more than last year. Hotel revenues increased by $1.16 billion, 15 percent than in the same period in 2013.
Since 1999, the hotel industry in Dubai has grown at a phenomenal rate. By this year, it created 254 hotels and 124 hotel apartments, a total of 25,188 new rooms. Data published by the organisers of The Hotel Show Dubai 2014 show that an average of 17 new hotels opened every year for the past 15 years.
Since its formation, the UAE has witnessed tremendous development. With the discovery of oil and natural gas, both on land and in its waters, the country has moved away from earlier dependence on the pearl, fisheries, agriculture, and natural resources.
Today, the UAE has a varied productive economy based on international emerging knowledge and future energy. The population of the UAE has moved from poverty to one of the highest income levels in the world. Innovative developments have attracted worldwide attention, and the UAE has become a globally known financial and economic centre.
The rapid economic development of the UAE has significantly contributed to the advancement of its citizens, particularly women. There are equal opportunities in education and job choice and fair working conditions for both genders. Women now account for 22.2 percent of the seats in the Federal National Council (FNC), which is one of the highest percentages of parliamentary representation in the Middle East and in the world. Today, women account for nearly 70 percent of all university graduates in the country and occupy about 60 percent of government posts. Four ministers in the cabinet are women; women have positions as permanent representatives to the United Nations and first vice speaker of the FNC, and 10 percent of diplomats (including ambassadors and consuls general) are women. Women are even civil and armed forces pilots: Major Maryam al-Mansoori attracted international attention this year because of her participation in the multinational air campaign against terrorist groups in Iraq.
The UAE has made tremendous efforts to diversify its energy sources through investments in future energy, including nuclear and renewable energy. In December 2009, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, created the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), an organisation active in the implementation of the UAE’s peaceful nuclear energy programme, which produces electricity and supports economic development, providing new opportunities for the nation. The ENEC is also responsible for supervising the development, construction and financing of nuclear power plants to deliver electricity to the UAE grid by 2017.
The UAE has also witnessed tremendous growth in the field of education during the last four decades. Today, all men and women in the UAE have free public education at all levels, including the right to free higher education in state universities and colleges. World-renowned research institutions have also established campuses in the UAE in recent years, providing access to world-class education for UAE residents.
Similar growth has been achieved in the field of healthcare. Forty years ago, the provision of medical services was limited, and hospital care was practically absent. In recent years, the government has developed an extensive network of general hospitals and clinics across the country. With the development of this sector, infant mortality has dropped significantly, mortality at birth is now at zero and life expectancy has increased.
Kazakhstan and the UAE celebrated the 22ndanniversary of the beginning of their diplomatic relations in November. Today, versatile, warm, friendly relations between the two countries are developing between officials and also in the economy, culture, education, sports and environmental protection. The UAE is among the largest investors in Kazakhstan, having invested $10 billion and counting in the country.
Our heads of state and government officials regularly visit each other. This October, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev met with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the UAE Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
During the meeting they discussed issues of bilateral relations in trade, economic, investment, cultural and humanitarian sphere. In addition, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan discussed key aspects of regional and international agenda. It was noted that the UAE continues to be one of the leading investors in Kazakhstan. Examples of active cooperation include construction of the Abu Dhabi Plaza complex in Astana, the activities of the Al Hilal Islamic bank and the Al Falah Capital Partners joint investment fund.
Abu Dhabi Plaza has already become one of the most anticipated projects in Astana. Eighty-eight stories high, it will consist of 450 apartments, two hotels and 80,000 square metres of office space. The estimated cost of the project is more than $1.6 billion. Construction is planned to be finished by the end of 2016, and operations to begin in 2017.
This year has been successful in building the relationship between our countries. Citizens of the UAE are now able to visit Kazakhstan for 15 days without visas and the UAE’s Flydubai airline has entered the Kazakh market, opening flights to Almaty and Shymkent.
The author is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Arab Emirates to Kazakhstan.