Reflections of the Father of the UAE and Statesman of the World

"He was a diplomat, he was a builder, a great man of peace." The audience sat in the majlis, listening with rapt attention, as one of the closest advisors to the late President of the UAE shared his insights, anecdotes, and stories about His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the beloved Father of the Nation.

His Excellency Zaki Nusseibeh, Cultural Adviser Ministry of Presidential Affairs, came together with an audience of students, faculty, and staff at NYU Abu Dhabi on the 10-year anniversary of the passing of Sheikh Zayed, Allah rest his soul in peace. The talk, "Reflections of the Father of the UAE and Statesman of the World", was a Community to Community (C2C) Diplomacy in Action program organized by the Office of Campus & Student Life and Community Relations.

For many years H.E. Zaki Nusseibeh served as the personal interpreter to the late Sheikh Zayed, he also served, and continues to act, in a number of different capacities within the government of the UAE and the Office of the President. Educated at Cambridge University, Nusseibeh arrived in the UAE in the 1960's, and was witness to Sheikh Zayed's commitment and passion towards to creation and unification of the UAE.

A gifted storyteller, Nusseibeh captivated the crowd with stories of Sheikh Zayed's dedication and devotion to this country, to the people of the UAE, and of the world. He described the late Sheikh Zayed as "passionately humanist" and committed to "building a nation, bringing prosperity to it...helping his people and helping others." Nusseibeh also described Sheikh Zayed’s rise to the role of President, and his time as the leader of the country as deserving of great admiration. Coming to rule at the height of a global cold war and the Arab world in the midst of turbulence, Sheikh Zayed was faced with establishing a united nation from a divided Arab world. The abrupt British withdrawal prior to his rule left the Arab world in a state of chaos with little socio-economic infrastructure. This was described as a catalyst behind Sheikh Zayed’s vision for the UAE and it's future position as a globalized economic hub.

Over the two-hour seminar, the audience also learned something of the late President's personal interests, namely that he was an avid hunter and gardener, with a profound knowledge of Arabic literature and poetry. In one story, Nusseibeh recounted an interview in 1968; a year after Sheikh Zayed came to power. As the personal translator to the President, one of Nusseibeh's first jobs was translating a media interview directly in real-time. Although he described being nervous to start with as Sheikh Zayed was a thoughtful speaker whose language intricate language could be difficult to translate directly, his nerves soon dissipated as he became captivated by the vivid imagery painted through Sheikh Zayed’s use of metaphor and poetry.

As the audience left the majlis following the talk, it was clear that they had valued this unique and intimate look at the life of the late President. Nusseibeh had painted a picture of the legacy left behind, and provided a glimpse into the complex life and vision of the Father of the Nation.