Image credit: Khaleej Times
Originally from the UK, Peter Hellyer first came to the UAE in 1975 to make documentary films on the overseas state visits of the late Sheikh Zayed. He stayed on to fill a number of posts in the government communications departments, and called Abu Dhabi home for almost five decades.
Hellyer had a career that was both distinguished and diverse. Starting as a broadcaster, he was instrumental in establishing the English-language service of the Emirates News Agency, WAM, in 1978.
He was also the managing editor of Abu Dhabi’s official daily paper Emirates News from 1985 to 1999, following which he became adviser and head of External Relations at the Ministry of Information and its successor, the National Media Council.
Hellyer also spent a considerable amount of time writing about the heritage and history of the people of the UAE.
Claire Micheletti, fHis writings chronicled the beautiful tapestry of Emirati culture, seamlessly blending tales of ancient life with modern narratives of growth and progress. His respect for the UAE’s past did not blind him to its future; rather, it fuelled his passion to ensure its heritage was safeguarded for future generations.
“As a writer and journalist, his voice was powerful.”
A pillar of the expat community in the country, Peter was also a founder-member of Abu Dhabi’s British Business Group – now the British Chamber of Commerce, Abu Dhabi.
Motivate Media Group had the privilege to work with him over the years and published many of the books he co-authored, including Fujairah: An Arabian Jewel, Al Ain: Oasis City and Fifty Years of Emirates Archaeology, to name a few.
Ian Fairservice, Managing Partner of Motivate Media Group, said: “It is unbelievably sad news that we have lost such a friend and wonderful colleague in Peter Hellyer. We worked together for many years, on so many projects and his contribution in terms of researching and recording our region’s heritage and culture is incalculable.
“I was privileged to count him as one of my closest friends for over 30 years and I’m deeply grateful that I had the opportunity to have a long and meaningful conversation with him, albeit on the phone, just a week ago. It’s surely a comfort that generations to come will continue to learn from the knowledge and understanding of the Arab world that Peter shared through his insightful work as a writer, editor and documentary maker.”
Hellyer’s contributions to the UAE were recognised at the highest level. In 2004, he was awarded the annual Sheikh Mubarak bin Mohammed Award for Natural History, and in 2010, he was granted UAE citizenship by the then President, the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
In 2013, he was also presented with the Abu Dhabi Medal – the highest honour that can be bestowed upon a civilian in the emirate – for his work in identifying key archaeological sites in the UAE.
As news of Hellyer’s passing spread, high-ranking officials, touched by his contributions spanning several decades, expressed their gratitude and admiration on social media.
Mansoor Abulhoul, the UAE Ambassador to the UK, tweeted: “Deeply saddened by the loss of Peter Hellyer, a true friend of the UAE whose legacy will remain imprinted in our hearts. His immeasurable contribution to our national narrative & pivotal role in our media landscape are a testament to his love for the UAE.”
Salem Khalid Al Qassimi, UAE Minister of Culture & Youth, shared a tweet honouring Hellyer’s work.
Today, we lost Peter Hellyer, a great historian who dedicated 50+ years to UAE’s environmental and archaeological heritage, notably Sir Bani Yas. His devotion to this land will inspire us to preserve our environment, monuments, and history. His legacy endures. pic.twitter.com/Ag52dyAiIA
— Salem Khalid Al Qassimi | سالم بن خالد القاسمي (@Salemalq) July 2, 2023
Noura Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of State, also paid homage to Hellyer in a tweet: “Peter’s dedication has left an indelible mark on our history. It was great honor to have shared in both work & friendship with him.”