LONDON: The Emirates Society, a UK-based friendship group dedicated to strengthening ties between the UK and the United Arab Emirates, held a Ramadan iftar in the heart of the British capital to celebrate the Emirati culture and heritage.
“Ramadan is of course important for those who believe and for those who don’t, because we know how much it means to us (the UAE), and we all want to celebrate that and it’s just this happy opportunity. at the end of the day to come together,” Alistair Burt, a former British government minister and president of the Emirates Society, told Arab News.
The event, held at the UAE-owned Carlton Tower Jumeirah in London, attracted a wide range of people, including MPs, ambassadors, heads of think tanks and charities and businessmen, all of whom wish to foster relations between the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates. .
Burt, who has been involved with the company since it was launched in 2018 by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, is stepping down as chairman to give someone else the chance to move on. next step.
“I am very proud of what we have accomplished. We’ve had milestone events, both in person and virtually, we’ve been to Mars, and we’ve had opportunities here, we’ve talked about hard stuff, we’ve talked about easy stuff, we’ve really looked at the culture, art and design in London, and I think we’ve developed the relationship with colleagues a lot, so it’s ready for the next step,” he said.
Burt added: “Over the past year, the company has hosted a variety of exhibits, conferences and talks on topics ranging from food waste to archeology and investment opportunities.
“For me, it was always about broadening the relationship away from the stuff that the papers talk about. Newspapers and politics are about very simple things, it’s defense and security, it takes the Middle East in this context.
During his tenure as Britain’s Middle East Minister, he said he was more interested in “people below it all”, who are interested in contemporary things, whereas in Britain “he there is a tendency to look back”.
He said: “I’ve always wanted the Emirates Society to be something that recognizes that vision, but has embraced it in a contemporary way, and I think that’s where we’re going,” adding that there has many more opportunities in the scientific and social fields. upcoming media.
Burt, who has vowed to continue his involvement with the Emirates, also said they were working with young people, as well as universities and students, to bring more young people into society.
The iftar event was hosted by UAE Ambassador to the UK Mansoor Abulhoul who said now that the COVID-19 pandemic is over he would like to see more events held and a increased membership and youth engagement – as they have a strong Emirati student base in the UK – as well as private sector involvement.
“The purpose of the Emirates Society is to be a platform for friendship and to foster closer ties in the relationship, which is so essential, when you have a very strong two-way relationship, you want to make sure that people’s connectivity is optimized,” Abulhoul said.
With over 100,000 British expatriates in the UAE currently, making it one of the largest British communities in the world, he said there are many people with ties to the UAE, as generations of Brits are there. born.
The United Arab Emirates has enjoyed a special relationship with Britain since its founding in 1971, developing strong strategic ties in the economy, defence, education, culture, health and energy.
The ambassador said the iftar event also coincides with Zayed Humanitarian Day, which is celebrated every year on the 19th of Ramadan, where they celebrate the founder of the Emirates and his contributions to helping the less fortunate.
“It’s wonderful to be able to do this in Ramadan on Zayed’s Humanitarian Day, and I think he’s played an exemplary role in his career that has been instilled in his sons in terms of foreign aid that we give to the world, assistance we give within our own country to those who are less fortunate,” Abulhoul said.
Nusrat Ghani, the Tory MP for Wealden in East Sussex, said holding iftar was “incredibly valuable” as it brought people together and gave them the opportunity to enjoy other cultures.
“It’s nice to meet so many of my Emirati friends and those from the diplomatic service, we haven’t met for a while due to COVID-19, and just caught up on conversations we had a few years ago. years,” she said. , adding that they talked about the environment, the new technology that the UAE could exploit and exploit for many more people around the world, the upcoming elections in Lebanon and extremism.
“There’s a lot of overlap in what’s happening between our countries and what matters to our constituents, our constituents, and hopefully we can continue those conversations and make some really good decisions about things that matter to them, from safety to the environment,” added Ghani.