Earlier this month, I decided to donate 100 million dirhams to the One Billion Meals Endowment in Dubai. A commendable philanthropic initiative driven by His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the endowment seeks to provide food aid to millions of people in need around the world during the holy month of Ramadan.
Acts of charity are primarily about honoring a human and religious duty. But charity is also about gratitude and appreciation and, for my family and I, our donation to the One Billion Meals Endowment is, above all, a token of the love and appreciativeness we feel for the United Arab Emirates, which has been our cherished home for almost thirty years.
In the 1990s, while my birthplace Afghanistan grappled with conflict and instability, Dubai welcomed, protected, and nurtured my family. Over the years in this wonderful city, my children have spent their happy childhoods, grown to become responsible adults, and gone on to build their own careers. Together, we have enjoyed the unparalleled security and safety the UAE has to offer, and benefited from the education, healthcare and lifestyle opportunities that are second to none across the world.
When we moved here in 1995, we brought with us a modest fortune that I had made from an earlier entrepreneurial career in Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe. Three decades later, today, we have built a vast business that comprises one of Dubai’s top real estate companies – Azizi Developments – with over 10 billion US dollars in assets. I full-heartedly believe that our success is a testament to the openness and the enabling environment that Dubai offers entrepreneurs and their businesses.
The experience of Dubai showed me that, in a well-governed society with an empowering environment, while everyone is able and encouraged to seek his or her dream, no-one is, nor needs to be, entirely self-made. Success is not just the product of our ambitions but also of the opportunities we have – the rule of law that prevails, the reliable infrastructure that surrounds us and, above all, the government that works to support the private sector.
Crucially, Dubai’s global allure as a safe, happy, and welcoming place follows from the vision and sagacity of its leadership and government. I believe that the Al Maktoum family’s role is right at the center of Dubai’s success. I pay tribute to His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum for his inspirational vision and leadership which lies behind Dubai’s ability to realize its potential as a global hub, connecting people and cultures in opportunity and prosperity, unparalleled by any other city or nation.
In particular, I commend His Highness’ focus on supporting those in need. Philanthropy, in the collective sense of obligation we feel towards those less fortunate, is a foundational building block of human society. It is the fabric that brings communities and people together, underscoring our shared humanity and basic interdependence.
Dubai already serves as a major logistical hub for the United Nations and other humanitarian entities operating across the world, and it is also becoming a major fundraising base for charitable causes. I believe it is time that the emirate’s role and potential as a major hub for global philanthropy was recognized.
Through our contribution to the One Billion Meals Endowment, I am proud to have been a small part of His Highness the Sheikh’s vision to support the global fight against poverty and suffering. Beyond the immediate challenges of fighting extreme hunger and malnutrition through emergency food aid, His Highness has rightly given priority to education and health as the two most critical areas of humanitarian intervention in many countries around the world.
In our own modest fashion, Azizi Developments is currently providing aid and support to communities in need, with a particular focus on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Through the Azizi Foundation, we are supplying emergency food aid to 1.5 million needy Afghans every year. In addition, we are providing university level scholarships to students, notably girls, who will otherwise be unable to pursue higher education. Moreover, we have recently allocated 100 million US dollars to fund three major programs in Kabul – the establishment of a cancer hospital, a dialysis center, a maternity center, and an orphanage.
In continued pursuit of these and other philanthropic goals, it is a great honor and privilege for Azizi Developments to remain a part of His Highness Sheikh Mohamad bin Rashid al Maktoum’s vision and strategy.
More generally, beyond Dubai’s vibrant, stable economy and world-class facilities, I see in the very fabric of this great city a unique spirit that combines the ultra-modern with the staunchly traditional; a spirit that engenders a sense of community, collaboration, and a shared future, both at home and in the outside world. This generous spirit will become the basis for Dubai to achieve even greater heights of success in the future.
The growth trajectory of Dubai is a very bright and prosperous one, not only for the emirate itself, but for the world as a whole, and I am proud and honored that my family and I will be a proactively involved part of this promising future.