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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Al Shindagah celebrates its 100th issue

by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

© Al Habtoor Group

This bumper 100th issue of Al Shindagah is not only a celebration of the magazine’s success, it also marks the Emirates’ amazing evolution, since the first issue rolled off the press 18 years ago, when the UAE Federation’s principal architect the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, was President.

The growth of the magazine is indivisible with that of the UAE, which is why many of this issue’s pages are devoted to the personal stories of high profile Emiratis whose dedication and individual talents in the religious, artistic, media, filmmaking, sporting and medical fields, have contributed to making our country great.

Each one of those profiled has a unique story to tell, but all have one thing in common – a deep and abiding love of the United Arab Emirates, and all share my pride in being lucky enough to be able to call myself an Emirati.

The well-known Koranic singer Ahmed bu Khatir speaks for all of us when he says, ‘To those who have criticised Dubai, I say, ‘You would not have the guts to transform your city. It’s easy to criticise, but it takes real guts to actually do something’.’

Chairman of the Dubai International Film Festival, Abdulhamid Juma, is proud of: ‘The beautiful mixture of nationalities living in this place, in peace and harmony’, a sentiment with which I heartily concur. The Emirates’ first female surgeon Houriya Kazim misses the ‘small town atmosphere Dubai used to have, when you literally knew everyone you met on the street,’ but likes that there is so much more to do nowadays and is incredibly proud of how much the UAE has achieved in such a short period of time.

Our world was very different when the magazine – named after the place where I was born – was first conceived in 1993. Bill and Hilary Clinton were settling into the White House; the Maastricht Treaty creating the European Union was just coming into force; the PLO leader Yasser Arafat was talking ‘the peace of the brave’ with Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Saddam Hussein still held a firm grip on Iraq. And on a personal note, very few of my polo-playing grandsons, who challenge their fathers in tournaments all over the world, were even born.

As a businessman, who has always had a keen interest in regional and global politics and who was then an active member of the Emirates Committee for Arab Solidarity, I resolved that my new publication would go beyond the remit of most company magazines.

Apart from wishing to disseminate news about the group’s companies and hotels, my main aim was to showcase the UAE’s remarkable progress; educate enquiring minds on Arab history; politics and culture; increase inter-religious understanding; further environmental awareness and create a platform for my own views on current events, as well as those of respected opinion columnists.

Being able to reach and inform the world’s decision-makers on Arab and Islamic affairs became even more of an imperative post-September 11, 2001 when sections of the Western public, influenced by the right-wing media, were beginning to view all Muslims with suspicion.

I hoped that in a small way Al Shindagah’s well-researched and moderate perspectives would serve as an antidote to those unfounded attitudes. Moreover, the magazine’s content has been so consistently rich with knowledge and ideas that I am sure its loyal readers have benefited on numerous levels. Certainly, for me, it’s never failed to be a source of great satisfaction and pride.

Today, Al Shindagah’s 100 issues together form a political and cultural repository for history buffs, researchers and anyone who would like to know more about the MENA region and its people. Many of my own columns have been compiled and published in three books: In my Own Words (2002), An Enemy called Apathy (2004) and Essays for Truth Seekers (2007), which are all available upon request.

Sadly, our world has rarely been as plagued with political and economic uncertainties as it is now. There is much to write about, much to complain about and much that needs to be changed. I hope that Al Shindagah will be celebrating its 200th anniversary 18 years from now but, in the meantime, I can promise you that we will never cease rattling cages and will always strive to make each and every issue better than the last.

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