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Many people came to the UAE and did not expect or plan to stay longer, but over time they were linked to the place until they became part of it. We cannot forget or overlook what those people have done to our homeland. These personalities include Canadian nurse Gertrude Dyke AKA “Dr. Latifa”.
Gertrude’s career began after she finished her studies in 1960, where she worked as a nurse in a small hospital in Canada for two years. Thereafter, she learned that a new hospital in UAE required nurses, so she came to Al Ain, and ever since she loved Al Ain and liked the simplicity of life at that time. The goodwill of the inhabitants and their constant welcome, as well as the good treatment of the elders and rulers, increased her fondness of the place.
Sheikh Zayed, ruler of Al Ain and the Eastern Province at that time, was aware of the need for healthcare services to treat citizens from deadly diseases.
Meanwhile, work was under way to build the Oasis Hospital. Sheikh Zayed had donated his land, and it was opened in January 1964.
Oasis Hospital in Al Ain
Dyke says: “In 1962 I had the ambition to leave my country, after I finished studying nursing. So, I went to the Canadian Consulate and asked for help to work in the Middle East, and they told me that there was a newly opened hospital in the Arabian Gulf; the first hospital in Al Ain that needs nurses. When I saw pictures of Abu Dhabi taken by a Canadian painter, I said, this is my place.”
Magic of Simplicity
Dr. Latifa describes her feelings, at the beginning of her presence in the region, saying: “Everything that I saw in the Emirates was different; the weather, life and people, everything was simple … Since my arrival in Al Ain, I have had strong relationships with people. They are kind and their hearts are full of love for everyone.”
Dr. Latifa also portrays the Oasis Hospital, saying: “The ruler of Al Ain Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan wanted to provide his people with health care to alleviate the burden of disease.”
Fondness of Arabic and Bedouins
Latifa talks about her relationship with the place and her life details there, noting her love and her strong attachment to Emirati attire. The only difficulty for her was the Arabic language, which compelled her to travel to Bahrain to learn Arabic through special training courses.
Latifa learned the local dialect from the community. She says she returned to Canada after she stayed in Al Ain for 5 years and decided to stay for one year in Canada. However she could not, because she felt strong nostalgia for the UAE, so she quickly returned.
Midst of Changes:
Gertrude Dyke arrived in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, at a time that witnessed many important developments in the region, which followed the discovery of oil and the exploitation of its resources.
She was in a unique position that allowed her to record through her lens a lifestyle in the process of transformation, leaving a wonderful collection of thousands of photos, and invaluable personal documents.
Nurse Gertrude Dyke and her role had a place in the minds of the citizens of Al Ain, as she spent 38 years working at Oasis Hospital from the early 1960s until 2000. And due to her love for the UAE, she did return to her homeland until 2005.
Latifa says: “I loved the Bedouins and their lives, merged and lived with them and lived their reality, dreams, and their simple customs and traditions’’
Latifa says that she accompanied Sheikh Zayed and Sheikha Fatima on their trips to European countries; either for treatment or entertainment.
Latifa says she met Sheikh Zayed the last time in 2002: “He welcomed us saying: “Marharba Latifa! how are you?” Then we sat down and he talked to me about the conditions of the Oasis Hospital”.
Mother of the rulers
In her memoirs, Gertrude Dyke devoted space to Sheikha SalaAma bint Butti, in which she wrote: “One of the greatest women in this country was Sheikha Salaama bint Butti Al Qubaisi, who was fondly known as Umm esh Shyuukh (“mother of the rulers”). She was born around 1890 and died in 1970. When I first met her, I admired her royal posture and kindness. The late Sheikh Zayed used to come to visit her almost every day, and therefore it was a privilege for us to have the opportunity to sit with him there.”
Humanity and modesty
Latifa spoke of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, saying: “His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is a very kind and modest person, and has a great position in the hearts of the hospital staff”.
The Government of Canada has presented Gertrude with the Order of Canada, that country’s highest civilian honour, and a Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee medal for her life of dedication and service to the people of the Emirates. Gertrude spent her years of retirement in Canada until she passed away on October 17, 2009.
On November 29, 2010 Latifa has been posthumously honoured with the Medal of Independence of the Third Order, bestowed by Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE, in recognition of her efforts in the service of the health sector. The Medal was received by Ernest Dyke, Gertrude’s elder brother.
The National Archives singled out a pavilion in the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Hall, located at the headquarters, for the possessions of the Canadian nurse Gertrude Dyke, in the light of the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, President of The National Archives Board.
These possessions are rare photos presented by the family of the late Latifa as a gift to the Archives.