From Zayed to Zayed: Everything Comes Full Square in the Final Days of Abu Dhabi

The darkness behind Sheikh Zayed Stadium made the lights streaming from the top of the colonnade that much more dazzling. Maybe it just felt that way because it was the final time I’d see it.


Four years ago I had looked up at those same lights in confusion as I tried to find a way into the stadium. Gaelic Football season was about to start and that night was the first practice. Lucky for me a friendly lad named Gary Tracey invited me into his car and we swung around the other side into the back gate, and into a world of football I’d never before experienced. 

I thought back to that night with fondness. How different of a man I was. I had just gotten to Abu Dhabi not a few days prior and already I was wandering around roman-esque structures in search of a game I had no reason playing. Everything was new and exciting. I was a single man with few cares and a myriad of opportunities. The adventure had just begun. 

Now, close to four years later I stand in a similar situation. In the twilight of one adventure and on the cusp of a new one. By happenstance we were placed in an apartment building for our last week in the UAE that stands not 500 meters from the stadium and fields where I spent so much time. 

What a perfect way to end our time here. Sometimes it felt like my life was a quadrangle rotating simply between the four points of home, work, church, and the football pitches. And now, with work at an end, the apartment cleaned and cleared, and the last church service attended, I stand at the final point once again. God is quite a poet. 

The UAE was unified by Sheikh Zayed. The Emiratis refer to him as Father Zayed, in honor of his unifying vision and charismatic leadership that brought together a group of Bedouin tribes in the Arabian peninsula and turned them into the United Arab Emirates. How poetic it is that this stadium, named after him, in a place called Zayed Sports City, which was the initial spark that connected me to my first group in Abu Dhabi, would also hold my final moments as well. 

That spark has led to a lightning storm of change within me and those around me. Relationships. School events. Service to my church community. Awards. Championships. Honors. Milestones. Marriages. Births. Deaths. 

Life. 

All of which began in the shadow of Sheikh Zayed. 

But with all things, good and bad, they must come to an end. My time in the UAE is over. The next chapter about to begin. 

It has been a thrilling adventure. I am blessed to have lived it. I am blessed to have been a blessing to others. However, there is one final moment I long for. As my flight leaves the runway this evening and I look out over the lights of Abu Dhabi one last time, I hope to hear the small whisper in the silence of my soul…

“Well done, my good and faithful servant.” 

P. S. The adventure continues… in the next coming weeks stayed tuned for posts on my experiences while My family and I travel through the U.K. and Ireland. Also stayed tuned for the FreckledTraveler’s insights and adventures in the good ole USA.