Na­tional Day brings fam­i­lies to­gether across UAE to cel­e­brate the coun­try they love and call home

Progress and patriotism have star­ring roles in UAE’s spec­tac­u­lar story

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - ANNA ZACHARIAS and SALAM AL AMIR

From the shores of the In­dian Ocean to the salt flats of Abu Dhabi, ci­ti­zens and res­i­dents gath­ered to­gether yes­ter­day to cel­e­brate the coun­try they call home.

The im­promptu Na­tional Day pa­rades have been re­placed by for­mal cer­e­monies and con­certs but above all, Na­tional Day re­mains a time for fam­i­lies to gather around the camp­fire or in the ma­jlis.

Bashar Saad, an Iraqi raised in Shar­jah, hit the dunes south of Dubai with the UAE Pa­jero Club for their an­nual Na­tional Day drive. The driv­ers camped in the dunes the night be­fore.

“First and fore­most it’s a hol­i­day, so ev­ery­body’s free and we love the desert. We have to be in the desert. If you ever spend a night in the desert, it so quiet. It is the best thing for you.”

Me­lanie Sanchez, her hus­band Jesse and their three year old child, packed up their car the night be­fore and headed for a fam­ily camp­ing trip at Al Qu­dra Lakes.

For Ms Sanchez, who lives in Abu Dhabi, the long week­end was a rare chance to re­con­nect with her sis­ter’s fam­ily, who live in Dubai. Both Ms Sanchez and her sis­ter met their hus­bands in the Emi­rates and had their chil­dren here.

“That’s why the UAE is very spe­cial for us,” said Ms Sanchez.

“It’s a big love story for us,” said her brother-in-law, Jojo Sanchez, who is 41.

Nearby, Saran­nya Arun, who was born in Ker­ala but raised in Shar­jah, ex­plored the man­made lakes with her three-year-old son, hus­band and in-laws. “The hol­i­day is a chance to get to­gether with the fam­ily,” said Ms Arun, who is 33. “Oth­er­wise we wouldn’t have the time, ac­tu­ally. We’re in work daily, we never get the time to come here.”

For her, Na­tional Day marks the foun­da­tion of the coun­try she has al­ways called home. Her fa­ther worked at Shar­jah In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

“It’s our sec­ond home, ac­tu­ally,” she said of the Emi­rates. Her sisters re­turned to In­dia at a young age to study but she stayed on. “What to say? I just got set­tled here.”

In the Northern Emi­rates, Na­tional Day cel­e­bra­tions be­gan the night be­fore with pic­nick­ers lin­ing the dunes along­side Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Zayed mo­tor­way, cel­e­brat­ing the hol­i­day with fire­light and car­damom-in­fused tea along­side the road that con­nects the coun­try.

In cen­tral Ras Al Khaimah, a free con­cert ti­tled Am­bi­tion

of a Na­tion, fea­tur­ing Emi­rati su­per­stars Hus­sain Al Jassmi

The re­mark­able story of the UAE was told in spec­tac­u­lar style yes­ter­day as thou­sands con­verged on the cap­i­tal for a breath­tak­ing show in cel­e­bra­tion of the 48th Na­tional Day.

Pa­tri­otic pride was on full dis­play as UAE lead­ers joined peo­ple of all ages, na­tion­al­i­ties and back­grounds at Zayed Sports City Sta­dium in Abu Dhabi to pay trib­ute to the coun­try’s rich roots and its grow­ing role on the global stage.

Legacy of our An­ces­tors, a stun­ning the­atri­cal pro­duc­tion mas­ter­minded by an in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tion of de­sign­ers, pro­duc­tion spe­cial­ists, tech­ni­cians and pro­fes­sional per­form­ers from 65 coun­tries, aimed to shine a light on the many achieve­ments of a na­tion trans­formed from a desert land of un­tapped po­ten­tial into a buzzing, vi­brant young coun­try.

A vast stage oc­cu­py­ing an area of 10,000 square me­tres – equiv­a­lent to the size of eight Olympic pools – was con­structed in less than six months to be used for the event.

There was rich re­ward for the count­less hours of toil, with spec­ta­tors en­thralled by the lav­ish stage show chart­ing the rapid rise of the Emi­rates through cut­ting-edge vis­ual and au­dio tech­nol­ogy and a gifted cast of per­form­ers.

A 19-me­tre pup­pet whale, laser lights and more than a thou­sand props daz­zled and de­lighted the crowds.

The UAE flag was car­ried in­side the sta­dium by 10 mem­bers of the Pres­i­den­tial Guard, who marched in tune with mil­i­tary songs.

The show cen­tred on five sto­ries of Emi­rati life, from a girl who dared to dream and spoke to the Moon and a whale that brought hope to a vil­lage.

One young mem­ber of the vast crowd, 11-year-old Maryam

Ibrahim, sat anx­iously wait­ing for the show to start.

“I heard some of those sto­ries from my fa­ther dur­ing road trips,” said the sixth-grader.

“For the first time I will see them live in front of me out­side my imag­i­na­tion.”

Boats were ush­ered by two divers to the stage as one of the sto­ries started to un­fold, while other divers stood hold­ing lanterns to com­ple­ment the pic­turesque moon­lit sail­ing trip.

Soon af­ter, the stage erupted with steam and waves demon­strat­ing a storm that drowned the diver’s fleet.

Then a crew of 26 peo­ple cre­ated the struc­ture of a whale on stage, for a dif­fer­ent tale.

Daugh­ters of Am­ber tells the story of Ara­bian Gulf res­i­dents in 1941 who were awak­ened by a whale that drifted to their seashore.

The mam­mal brought them for­tune as they man­aged to ex­tract am­ber from its throat, dur­ing a time when the area was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing harsh eco­nomic con­di­tions.

Maryam was cer­tainly not dis­ap­pointed as she watched her fa­ther’s sto­ries come to life.

Her mother Ghalya Al Ham­madi, 32, and her fa­ther Ibrahim Al Ham­madi, 36, said they were keen to bring their six chil­dren, aged be­tween one and 17, to the show.

“These days we strug­gle to con­nect chil­dren with the past. This kind of show make it eas­ier for us and more un­der­stand­able for them be­cause those sto­ries should be viewed not heard,” said Mr Al Ham­madi.

Sul­tan Al Thu­mairi, 18, and his cousin Ma­jid Al Thu­mairi, 16, were at­tend­ing the of­fi­cial Na­tional Day cel­e­bra­tions for the first time. “We usu­ally go round­ing in the car pa­rade on the Cor­niche,” said Sul­tan. “We would then watch the videos of the show and feel sorry we missed it.”

Vic­tor Besa / The Na­tional

‘Legacy of our An­ces­tors’, a vast stage show fea­tur­ing lasers and light and de­pict­ing Emi­rati her­itage and cul­ture, wowed thou­sands of spec­ta­tors at Zayed Sports Sta­dium in Abu Dhabi last night

Vic­tor Besa / The Na­tional

Young­sters pre­pare to greet the pa­rade at Zayed Sports City Sta­dium in Abu Dhabi yes­ter­day

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