Dr Rafia Obaid Ghubash is a long-term family friend of the Al Habtoor’s. Ghubash, an activist for women’s education, who recently set up a museum dedicated to Emirati Women in Dubai, is an academic, psychiatrist and the former President of the Arabian Gulf University.
In the Name of God the Merciful. Blessings and Peace be upon Muhammad, Seal of the Prophets and Messengers.
Your Highness Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan, my teacher, a noble man of great mind and high moral character, your presence here, Abou Said, is a great pleasure for us. Your participation in private and humanitarian events gives us great joy.
You came here one year ago to celebrate the release of the book of Osha Bint Khalifa, ‘Girl of the Arabs’, who is the daughter of Mr Khalaf Al Habtoor’s aunt and the grandmother of his children. Thanks to the ‘Girl of Arabs’, I entered the world of Khalaf Al Habtoor, who was for me a successful businessman who built the Burj Al Arab, which I considered to be a great achievement.
However, as I got closer to Mr Khalaf’s family, I entered a beautiful world of cordiality, compassion, affinity, humility and good manners among family members, young and adult alike. The true image of the man you see today is revealed when he meets his grandchildren at 9:45. I visit them each Thursday, and at 9:45 Abu Rashid kisses and salutes his grandchildren, an encounter that ends in five minutes. This is how Abu Rashid manages his time meticulously at the company, at home and everywhere; and I think it is one of the most important reasons of his success.
Today I insisted on obtaining a copy of the book before I come to this ceremony, so I passed by the office at noon and got a copy. I just wanted to read some papers to be ready for this beautiful event. However I kept reading until minutes before I came here. I couldn’t put the book down; it is encyclopedic in every sense of the word, full of knowledge, culture and humanitarian and political experiences.
Furthermore, the book exudes loyalty and gratitude; you could hardly find a page where Khalaf does not mention a person to whom he feels grateful. It might be a simple favour, but Khalaf insisted on documenting all these moments, and he didn’t forget anyone who stood by his side at the beginning of his life. He didn’t forget the grandfather of the ruler of Bahrain who hosted them during a pilgrimage trip, and never forgot his driver and escort, Jawa, to whom he dedicated four pages of the book.
This is the real greatness of man, to be humble with all members of society. The book’s introduction penned by Sheikh Nahyan put tears in my eyes because it is so sincere and emotional; he summed up Khalaf’s image in four brilliant pages. I searched in the book for “Imm Rashid”, my dearest friend, Mrs Hamda, Khalaf’s wife, and found her in the most important page.
Khalaf talks about his great admiration to Gamal Abdel Nasser who united the Arab nation and defied all odds. Driven by this admiration, Khalaf thought about writing a letter to Nasser; however he admits frankly that his handwriting was not appropriate to write a letter, so he asked his aunt’s daughter, Mrs Hamda, to write the letter for him. It is a great testimony to the potentials of the Emirati women even at that time.
It is an honour for me to stand here today to share with you my impressions about the book and the author. When you read the book, you will find that Mr Khalaf’s courage is not only confined to the local and regional levels; it is also obvious in letters addressed to heads of state where he condemns many positions and stands that are unfair to the Islamic community.
We congratulate ourselves for this great work; it is not only an autobiography but also a testimony and story of success of Dubai, where the likes of Abu Rashid played an important role. I always say that a real man is a man of his word, and real men are rare. Abu Rashid is one of the few who always hold tight to their beliefs.