UAE - Amna Binzaal Almheiri, the Consul General of the UAE in New York spoke to Khaleej Times about the significance of the Emirati Day celebrated in New York in honour of the UAE’s Golden Jubilee, and how as a diplomat living away from home, she sees Brand UAE being recognised globally for its tolerance and achievements.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Earlier this year, New York State Senator Kevin Thomas introduced a resolution to commemorate the UAE’s 50th anniversary by declaring December 2, 2021 as ‘Emirati Day’ in the State of New York.
This December, the UAE not only celebrated its 50th anniversary – it also celebrates 50 years of friendship with the State of New York. Strong business and trade ties and a range of partnerships through the arts, sports and education are the foundation of this close relationship. The commemoration also reflects the shared understanding that the friendship between the UAE and New York is set to grow even stronger in the years ahead.
Can you elaborate on the events?
On December 2, we joined the UAE’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in hosting a reception for our close friends and partners of the UAE. Dubai Tourism is hosting a traditional Emirati breakfast in Manhattan in collaboration with the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. Celebrations will continue through the weekend with a 5K race at Prospect Park in Brooklyn, called UAE 5K for 50. I will be sharing the stage with my friend Senator Kevin Thomas and Major General Mohammed Al Kaabi, who will help kick off the race. 5K for 50 is organized by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC and the UAE Armed Forces Officers Club in partnership with New York Runs. Leading up to Emirati Day, images of the UAE were broadcast across several screens in Times Square and seen on city buses throughout Manhattan.
As an Emirati living abroad, how do you feel celebrating your country’s national day in a foreign country?
?Each year, I feel proud of how much the UAE has to showcase, and it all culminates with one special day. Our achievements this year have been the most significant yet.
The UAE’s contribution in the global effort to distribute Covid vaccines to nations with the most vulnerable populations; becoming the first Arab nation to reach Mars; the one-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords, welcoming the world to Expo 2020 Dubai….are a few examples.
It is fitting to celebrate National Day with my fellow Emiratis here in the US – the UAE’s relationship with the US is such an important piece of our story. 50 years on, the UAE-US bilateral relationship has grown to become our most important, with broad economic, security and cultural dimensions. The values upon which the US was founded – opportunity, prosperity, community – are also what guided the UAE’s leadership when the nation was founded five decades ago.
It is an especially exciting time for diplomats and their families who miss home. My own children are most excited about the one day of the year they got to wear traditional attire in their host city, which gives them a sense of home and pride.
What are your fondest memories of National Day celebrations when you were in the UAE?
I recall from my early childhood years, my siblings and I could not wait for morning to come in anticipation of the celebrations throughout the day. During the walk to school there was always a distinct aroma in the air of oud, saffron and cardamom wafting in from all the Emirati homes.
I also participated in many community activities including the National Day school play, where we reenacted old Emirati traditions that told the story of our heritage and forefathers. These memories stay with me even now, and make me even more proud to represent my country abroad as a diplomat.
How do Emiratis usually celebrate National Day in the US?
UAE missions in the US host evening celebrations in their respective cities each year. At these events, the UAE’s closest US partners and friends come together with Emirati families to reflect on the UAE’s achievements and celebrate its culture. We also have a very active Emirati student body across the US, who each year take the initiative to gather their peers and professors to celebrate the day.
How do you think the Brand UAE has changed in the eyes of the world?
I recently took up my post as Consul General in New York in August – my second posting in the city in a decade. Between reacquainting myself with the city and making sure Emiratis here in the United States have what they need, I have had the rare opportunity to see firsthand the vast growth in the bilateral relationship between the UAE and the US.
The UAE’s achievements are making an impact globally. Most notably, I see the UAE being recognized for its tolerance, diversity and commitment to advancing peace. Americans’ perception of the UAE is that it is a welcoming place to visit and do business. Americans are interested in the wide range of exciting initiatives taking place in the UAE like the Expo where people from all over the world are gathering and connecting for the first time in the Arab world.
Another project that is generating excitement is the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi which will host a church, mosque and synagogue to create mutual understanding among people of all faiths. This is a testament to the forward-looking vision of the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who underscored the importance of tolerance and unity, a necessity to provide a better life and ensure stability.?
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