words by Sarmad Yahya Hashim Hamoudi Chilmeran
My father, Yahya Hashim Hamoudi (may Allah rest his soul in peace) arrived in the UAE around the summer of 1969. My great uncle Nasooh Hamdy had been in the UAE since the late 1950s. He had always believed in the UAE, known as the Trucial States back then, and its future.
He convinced my father in 1969 to come to Abu Dhabi and see for himself the opportunities that lay ahead in this beautiful oasis.
“My plan was to spend a year or two in Abu Dhabi, save some money, marry your mum and move to the US.” That was what I heard my father say throughout my teenage years.
The reality was that he lived the next 47 years of his life in the UAE, until he passed away in 2016.
“We would take the sand road by the beach to travel to Dubai from Abu Dhabi, because driving away from the beach meant getting lost in the desert. We would stop at Seih Shuaib, and passport control would stamp our passports with an exit stamp from Abu Dhabi and then an entry stamp atDubai.”
My father used to tell me this story every time we took a trip from Abu Dhabi toSharjah or Dubai.
My father’s first job was as the Director of the Office of the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Education upon the UAE’s formation. Within a year of his appointment, he had the opportunity to meet the UK’s Iron Lady and at the time-Secretary of State for Education and Science, Margaret Thatcher, who went on to become the UK’s prime minister.
The next stage of his professional career he was the Director of the Office of the Minister of Public Works and Housing, His Excellency Mohammad Al Kindi – known to our family as Abu Khalifa.
Around 1979, my father started his own business. Laterin 1981, he established the Gulf Piping Company (GPC) alongside his friends Abu Khalifa, an Emirati, and Antoinne Navas, a French national – a classic example of how the UAE brings people of various backgrounds, cultures and nationalities together towards a shared vision. GPC later came to be known as Gulf Piping Petroleum Company (GPPC) under the present umbrella of the IMCC Investment LLC. We have sold our family shares in the company, but I still consider it one of my father’s most significant achievements to date, for the country he loved so dearly and never left.
Reminiscing the early days of the unification of the UAE, my father would always say that the Diwan of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (may Allah rest his soul in eternal peace) was always open to all. He recalled how Sheikh Zayed’s leadership was an example to the world. My father believed Sheikh Zayed’s vision demonstrated values integral to the success of this nation: how to excel, how to move ahead with modernisation and the ultimate love for one’s traditions and roots.
My childhood here in Abu Dhabi was always filled with trips to parks and beaches, boat rides and overnight camping trips at what we now know as Saadiyat and Yas Islands. Whenever we visited Europe, it was hard for us to believe that people in that part of the world still considered the UAE to be a desert because what we grew up with was a green paradise. The emirate of Abu Dhabi and the entire UAE were and still are beautiful oases that we call home.
The story of my father carries within it inspiration for the young and the old. It is a reminder of how much you can achieve in a land filled with opportunities, dreams and hard work.
As I write this in memory of my late father, I can’t help but think that it has been 45 years since I’ve been in this country and 47 years since my father came to the UAE. I can only imagine that my son will probably have similar stories to write and share on the 100th anniversary of the UAE – the only difference being that there will be countless achievements and many more milestones to celebrate.