My story takes place between 1988 and 1990, during the unfortunate years of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. I’m from Syria and live in Fujairah. There was a popular slogan among young Emirati men at the time, “Come on. Are you ready? I am ready. Today I am ready.” It was popular to say, “I am ready, ready to serve the UAE.”
I was working at a hospital and wanted to join the effort. I wanted to find someone to speak to, to tell that I am ready. I wanted to fight for the UAE. Out of due diligence, I went to Etisalat and asked an Emirati employee, “Can I write a letter to Sheikh Zayed, Ruler of the UAE?” He replied, “Yes, you can. What would you like to say?” He handed me a pen and a piece of paper, asking me to write my message. I wrote, “In the name of Allah the merciful, your Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Ruler of the UAE, my name is Jamal Shraih and I live in Fujairah city. I want to serve the UAE with my blood and soul. I am ready to join your army.” I wrote everything that was in my heart. I gave him the paper with trepidation and left wondering what response, if any, I would receive.
After about a month I received a call from the hospital administration office. I was told, “You have a telegram.” I didn’t open it until I returned to my office and closed the door behind me. Then I carefully opened it. I started crying when I read the telegram. There were government emblems on the front.
Mr. Jamal Shraih - Al Fujairah,
We thank you for your telegram including your sincere support and your supervision support that reflects the true values of Islamic and Arab culture. We ask God to guide our path to all that is good for the Arab and Islamic nation.
Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan,
Ruler of the United Arab Emirates
I cry whenever I read the telegram. What happened next is that I felt a real sense of moral and social responsibility. Something unexpected had happened inside me. I felt that if something was troubling me I could go back to Sheikh Zayed, that the government was close to the people and that it cared. From then on I slept well, for I knew that God was present, closer than my own veins.
I have lived a great life in the United Arab Emirates. To this day, in Fujairah, whenever someone has a problem, the sheikhs’ doors are always open. If the majlis happens to be closed, it’s possible to meet sheikhs at the mosque on Friday and speak to them about our concerns. Is there anything better? Thank God that this country is good and that I may stay here and that my children have become citizens.