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‘Green Sheikh’ Speaks at Harvard

United Arab Emirates Sheikh discusses Middle Eastern

By Afoma C. Umeano, Contributing Writer

Known fondly as “the Green Sheikh,” Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Ali Al Nuaimi of the United Arab Emirates discussed environmental sustainability in the UAE in a presentation hosted by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

Aziz is the chairman of the International Steering Committee for the Global Initiative Towards a Sustainable Iraq. He is a member of the ruling family of the Emirate of Ajman, and environmental adviser to the Government of Ajman.

The Green Sheikh is known for his cultural understanding and message of “holistic living” for the world. He champions the use of Middle Eastern cultural traditions to help preserve the environment.

“The best sustainable transport is the camel,” he said. “It carries you, then dies and passes through the earth and renews the soil.”

Later, in response to a question about the value of dates, Aziz said that they are “fruits of heaven” and that people can survive for a lifetime on dates and water.

Moving beyond the Middle East and the environment to cultural intelligence among different peoples, Aziz contended that by recognizing their similarities people can appreciate individuality.

Besides the United States, Aziz has travelled to Iceland and Japan, among many other nations.

“We need the West, we need the East,” he said. “That’s why we call it ‘we.’”

With support from the Quran, Aziz asserted that people were created in order to help, not hurt, one another.

“O mankind! We created you from a single man and woman and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other, not that you may despise each other,” Aziz quoted.

Anthony C. Donofrio, a New York attorney and friend of Aziz, sat in on the discussion and recounted the sheikh’s first visit to New York City, where Aziz experienced a Broadway play and a Yankees game.

Donofrio later mentioned his own visit to Dubai. Aziz bought his friend traditional Muslim garb and took him to a traditional Muslim wedding ceremony, a wake, and a Muslim burial ceremony to help him better understand Muslim culture.

When asked how his life might affect society as a whole, Aziz said, “I want to impact people not by saying, but by living.”

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