As–salaamu Alaikum “may the Peace be upon you again “this time from the ancient Emirati oasis of Al Ain where the University of the United Arab Emirates is located, along with a variety of other interesting sites. From the top of Jebel Hafit the famous mountain top from which one can gaze out at what is called “The Empty Quarter” of desert between the UAE and the Sultanate of Oman, it seems as though one can see for ever “and everywhere you look it seems totally different from anywhere else in the world I’ve ever been. Sort of like the heat and terrain in the rural areas near Las Vegas (without any casinos!), with northern New Mexico and Arizona, but with different types of vegetation, different colours and different geological formations.
Palace at the top of Jebel Hafit overlooking Al Ain Oasis
A highlight of our visit to the Oasis was the opportunity to visit the Al Ain Palace Museum “ancestral home of the families of Sheikh Zayed, H. H. the President of the UAE. The Palace is known as the Palace of Peace & Love, the Palace of Hospitality, Nobility & Heritage, and the Palace of Zayed Al Khair. It was recommended to us by my Zayed University students whose families have been associated with the place over many generations. Visitors witness the Internal Residence related to the family of H. H. Shakh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, which is far away from the Courts of Men. In addition, there are special Courts for Women, and a large Majlis or tent meeting place where royal gatherings are held for discussions of national importance.
Al Ain Zayed Palace Garden Courtyard
I kept thinking about what comparisons might be drawn between Zayed Palace and other national monuments I have visited with young people over the years. Some comparisons could be drawn with the home of George Washington at Mount Vernon. We also thought that comparisons might be drawn with the Tower of London, or even the national places of significance in Ottawa, or Canberra, Beijing or Kuala Lumpur. But somehow this was special. At every turn there was a place to pause and reflect on the history of a tribal people, of Bedouin traditions, of the importance of family and of family trees. The tall date palms surrounding the compound and in the oasis immediately behind the palace have been planted over the years by families who return each year and remember their ancestors and their special contributions to making families strong.
There was something special here about child and youth care, symbolising the importance of each one of us having a place to which we can go “or return “at regular intervals to re-charge and renew ourselves through connections with our family histories. I kept thinking just how important it is to help young people in care know about their own histories, especially the good times that help to balance out the not so good times.
Ain Zayed Palace Reflection Pool
Words of His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan have kept ringing in my ears:
“Who has no past has no future,
nor has intercommunication with the future”.
If we are to help kids prepare for their futures, we must help them find safe places to which they can retreat and feel ok about their pasts.