As the United Arab Emirates celebrates its 52nd National Day on December 2nd, 2023, we reflect on a journey marked by transformative vision and rapid development. This momentous day, also recognized as World Futures Day, is a testament to the UAE’s influential role in shaping global futures. Over the past five decades, the UAE has emerged as a pivotal hub for trade, business, and innovation, anticipating and leading economic, industrial, and social change. With its proactive policies and groundbreaking projects, the UAE continues to demonstrate an exceptional ability to adapt to and harness future trends, setting a global standard in developing sectors that touch every aspect of life.
World Futures Day, celebrated on December 2nd each year, is dedicated to encouraging nations worldwide to embrace the future, enhancing their foresight, readiness, and proactive policy-making for sustainable development. This aligns seamlessly with the UAE’s approach to development, a reflection of its commitment to future-oriented progress and innovation.
This important alignment was formally recognized during the 41st session of UNESCO's General Conference, marking a global acknowledgment of the UAE's visionary approach to shaping tomorrow. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, expressed pride in this recognition, and said: “The international recognition of the UAE as a country for the future, as a model for its vision, and as a major center for its industry, places even greater responsibility on us to develop our capabilities in envisioning the future, keeping pace with its changes and benefiting from its opportunities. I wish our country good health and prosperity, and a better, bigger and greater future.”
On this special occasion of the UAE National Day 2023, we reflect on the monumental achievements in infrastructure and construction that have shaped the nation's landscape. Ohood bint Khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of State for Governmental Development and the Future, captures this essence, saying: “Since its early beginnings, the UAE was built by the hands of the founding fathers on a unique vision of the future, which contributed to achieving momentous leaps over 50 years. It is now an exceptional model for countries seeking to ensure a better and more sustainable future for their societies and future generations.” This vision is vividly reflected in the architectural wonders and infrastructure marvels that dot the country. Let’s revisit some of these notable projects:
Sheikh Zayed Road, the UAE’s longest road, epitomizes the nation's ambitious infrastructure projects. Stretching from the Al Batha border with Saudi Arabia to the Oman-UAE border, this highway is the backbone of the country's transport network. It connects major cities across various emirates, each segment known by different names like Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Road and Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Road in Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, Al Ittihad Road in Sharjah Emirate and Ajman Emirate, and Sheikh Muhammad bin Salem Road in Ras al-Khaimah. The highway was completed in 1980, and between 1993 and 1998, additional 30 kms of the road were added. Ever since, the road has been expanded to connect the five northern emirates together.
Burj Khalifa stands as a testament to the UAE’s towering ambitions. Soaring to a height of 829.8 meters, it's the world's tallest building. Emaar’s most notable project, initiated on January 6, 2004, and inaugurated on January 4, 2010, was realized by Samsung C&T at a staggering cost of $1.5 billion. This architectural giant is not just a structure; it's a symbol of the UAE’s determination and capability to transform vision into reality.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi was completed between 1994 and 2007. It was Initiated by the late UAE president Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and designed by Syrian architect Youssef Abdelke, this grand structure covers over 12 hectares and aligns its main axis towards the Kaaba in Mecca. Constructed by a joint venture of ACC and Six Construct of BESIX at a value of AED 2 billion, the mosque accommodates over 40,100 worshippers, with its main prayer hall holding more than 7,000. Featuring four minarets that rise about 107 meters each and a courtyard adorned with the world's largest marble mosaic.
The Dubai Metro is the first urban train network in the Arabian Peninsula, at a total system length of 89.6 km, accommodating 5 train cars per train on a total of 53 stations split between two major lines. The project, which began in May 2005, saw its first journey on the ceremonious time of 9:09:09 pm on September 9, 2009. The construction contract was awarded to a French-American joint venture between Systra and Parsons Corporation with a starting value of $4.2 billion. Today, it serves the bustling population of Dubai and accommodates around 616,000 daily ridership.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi, situated on Saadiyat Island and part of a $27 billion cultural development, is a landmark art museum under a Franco-UAE agreement. Spanning 24,000 square meters with 8,000 square meters of gallery space, it's the largest in the Arabian Peninsula. Its first foundation stones were laid in 2009, and included the setting of 4,536 foundation piles by Bauer International FZE in 2010 alone. The main construction phase, started in 2013 by a consortium led by Arabtec, Constructora San José, and Oger Abu Dhabi under a US $653 million contract, involved erecting four pillars to support a 7,000-tonne dome, with the first gallery completed by 2014. The museum officially opened its doors to the public on November 8th, 2017. By 2019, the Louvre Abu Dhabi had attracted 2 million visitors, becoming the most visited museum in the Arab world.
The Palm Jumeirah is part of a larger series of developments called the Palm Islands, including Palm Jebel Ali and Palm Deira, which, if completed, will together increase Dubai's shoreline by a total of 520 kilometers (320 mi). It is a manmade island that was created using land reclamation. The construction contracts awarded by Nakheel Developments were handed over to a joint venture of two Dutch specialist companies, Van Oord and Boskalis. Construction of The Palm Jumeirah began in June 2001 and the handover of the first residential units took place in 2006, after key infrastructure developments on the final fronds were completed.
The Sharjah-Khor Fakkan Road, an AED 5.8 billion infrastructure project, is a significant 89 km road development traversing challenging mountainous terrain. Designed to improve connectivity and reduce travel time by 45 minutes, it benefits not only Sharjah and Khor Fakkan but also surrounding villages and towns. The project included extensive excavation work, with Al Marwan Construct managing the construction of 27 km of the route, involving multiple underpasses, bridges, and water culverts. Over 243 heavy construction units and more than 480 operators were deployed to ensure continuous 24/7 operation, facing environmental challenges and rock-hard mountainous conditions. The scale of the excavation reached 1.6 million cubic meters, highlighting the project's magnitude and complexity.
As we commemorate UAE National Day 2023, we not only look back at the achievements of the past 52 years but also forward to a future of endless possibilities. The UAE, through its visionary leadership and relentless pursuit of excellence, continues to be a beacon of hope and inspiration, guiding us towards a more connected and sustainable world.
The 52nd UAE National Day and World Futures Day 2023 stand as a dual celebration of the UAE's historical journey and its unwavering commitment to a future of innovation and prosperity. This special day reaffirms the UAE's role as a global leader in development and an usher of a brighter, more inclusive future.