15 things to do, eat and shop for this National Day

The UAE typically marks its unification with a smorgasbord of themed activities and menus, fireworks, discounts and even some freebies

The UAE will celebrate its 47th National Day on Sunday, December 2, with the government declaring both Sunday and Monday as holidays. If you're in town, here's what you can do over this long weekend.

1. Fireworks

No UAE celebration is truly complete without fireworks. Head down to The Beach in Dubai on Saturday and Sunday at 8pm for a sparkling display of flaming balls, sky flyers and colourful aerial chrysanthemums. The promenade will also host Al Ayallah artists, who will perform the traditional Emirati dance over four 20-minute sessions from Friday to Monday, from 6pm.

Festival Bay at Dubai Festival city will feature two firework displays this year, with shows at 8pm and 10pm on Sunday. There will also be a laser and light show, and traditional Ayala dance performances, from 2pm.

In Abu Dhabi, head to the Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday at 9pm, for a huge fireworks display, plus live music, drift car racing and off-track entertainment from 2pm.

2. Concerts and shows 

Fireworks are also on the charts at La Mer on Saturday and Sunday, at 9pm, 10 minutes after which you can catch a free concert by Yemeni singer Fouad Abdul Wahed on Saturday and Emirati pop star Mohamed Al Shehhi on Sunday. Wahed performed at Dubai Summer Surprises alongside Balqees, while Al Shehhi has performed at Dubai Opera, and is known for adding uplifting western beats to his poetic Arabic lyrics.

Mall of the Emirates will stage The Bedouin Wonders and Pearl Passion, two dance-and-drama shows that will take audiences back to the roots of the country, when Bedouins roamed the lands and pearl-divers ruled the waters. The shows will take place in the Central Galleria from 3pm to 9pm from Saturday to Monday.

3. National anthem singing 

Head to Global Village in Dubai on Saturday and Sunday at 9pm to join what promises to be the UAE’s biggest gathering of National Anthem singers, seeing as it includes 10,000 partners of the park plus any and all guests.

The multicultural village will also house a vending machine that dispenses prizes, including gold coins to a lucky few, when you recite the anthem into its audio receptor. Other activities here include: an operetta called Zayed: Leader of the Humans, on Saturday, Sunday and Monday; a concert by Emirati star Hamad Al Ameri, on Sunday at 9pm; a musical fireworks display on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 9pm; and a celebration walk through a section done up with 50,000 UAE flags, which will be distributed to visitors along with shawls. All National Day celebrations are included in the Dh15 ticket price.

4. Record-breakers

On Saturday, Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi will attempt to set the new Guinness World Record for the number of dominoes toppled in a circle field. Once they collapse, the 95,000 dominoes will reveal the Year of Zayed logo. Last year, the Incredible Science Machine team succeeded in knocking over 76,017 dominoes at its annual event in Michigan. The Marina Mall event will start at 7pm, and is open to the public, with a designated viewing balcony set up above the arena near Bounce Abu Dhabi.

5. Dance performances

If you’re strolling along Boxpark this weekend, chances are you’ll spot Emirati dancers and entertainers, who are due to perform every hour from Saturday to Monday. The area, which will be awash with the colours of the UAE national flag from today until Monday, will also host henna artists, face-painting sessions, and themed art and craft workshops for children. Guests can write messages and comments on a large board located next to Bianca Mozzarella.

6. Game on, with a discount

Gamers and adventure buffs can qualify for a discount TepFactor from Friday to Sunday. The cave-like structure on the JBR Walk has 22 rooms full of physical, mental and team-work challenges. Just bring along a memento of your UAE experience – from a date or UAE flag to a Year of Zayed or other themed souvenir – to avail your team of a four-for-the-price-of-three offer.

7. Buy themed jewellery

Themed trinkets are all the rage around National Day, and this year is no different. La Marquise outlets across the UAE will stock limited-edition pendants and bracelets, starting from Dh2,250, crafted from baguette diamonds, black onyx, green malachite and dark coral, shades representative of the UAE flag.

In Dubai, home-grown jewellery brand Harmesh will offer two types of bracelets in 18K gold and four-hued enamel, priced at Dh820 and available from its West Zone Mall store.

8. One for the kids: swim or bounce  

If you’re thinking of things to do with your kids over the long weekend, consider spending a day at Wild Wadi in Dubai before it closes for renovations in January. The water park is running a National Day offer for UAE residents until December 15, which will get you entry for Dh141, down from Dh336 for adults and Dh284 for children under 3.6 feet. The park features a wave and riptide pool, aquatic roller coasters and slides, and a relaxing lazy river.

In Abu Dhabi, Bounce will offer 47 per cent off its premium access tickets to walk-in customers all day long on Sunday, which means you pay Dh55 for an hour of bouncing, instead of Dh105.

9. Beauty offers and deals 

Pay for any four services at a Tips & Toes salon in Abu Dhabi or Dubai and get an additional three free. The brand offers a range of hair, nail, grooming and facial treatments. Best of all, if you pay on Sunday or Monday, you can reserve any or all of your seven options until January (hint: save them for your big Christmas or New Year’s Eve bash).

In Abu Dhabi, Chi, the spa at Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri, will tack on an extra 47 minutes for every hour-long massage booked. The additional treatments include 30 minutes of an express body scrub or facial, or a longer massage. The remaining 17 minutes can be spent getting a hand or foot quench, collagen face mask, anti-wrinkle eye mask or hair treatment.

10. Staycation offer: an overnight stay for Dh47

Book now to get a one-night stay on Sunday at the Marriott Hotel Al Jaddaf for Dh47 only (plus taxes). Guests who are able to reserve the limited rooms at this rate can also partake in the dinner buffet for Dh47. Rooms will be allotted on a first-come, first-served basis and can be reserved by calling 04 317 7777. Also in celebration of National Day, the hotel’s Lobby Lounge will offer a saffron cheesecake, made from cardamom, saffron, rose water and vermicelli, from Friday to Sunday. Top tip: the hotel is near the new Jameel Arts Centre.

11. Souq set-up

The Dubai Mall's Souk Atrium will have mask-making and ayala (dance) stick-painting workshops. Down the corridor from the atrium is an educational exhibition by Watani Al Emarat, paying tribute to the Year of Zayed, from December 1 to 15. Yola dancers will entertain guests over the weekend, while the Burj Khalifa will out on an LED show inspired by the UAE Flag, and the Dubai Fountains will have a show choreographed to the national anthem.

Arabian Center in Dubai will transform one section of the mall into an old-school souq, complete with a spice shop, jewellery stalls, henna artists and fisherman’s dhows, with a view to give visitors a taste of the UAE’s traditional pastimes. Falcon shows, and debkah and yowla performances will be held from 6pm on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

12. Emirati cuisine

Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi will create dishes using venison and ostrich at its Emirati restaurant Mezlai, as well as themed cakes at Le Café, available on Sunday.

Latest Recipe at Le Meridien Abu Dhabi has a lunch buffet for Dh141, featuring lamb ouzi, machboos and dajaj samak muhamar, and traditional Emirati sweets, such as aseedah, khanfroush, and awamat.

In Dubai, Canvas Hotel MGallery by Sofitel has a Sunday brunch for Dh147, with chicken Lalla Fatima, Emirati salona vegetables, tagine, umm Ali and baklava.

13. Free food

In Dubai, Taqado Mexican Kitchen will serve 1,000 free burritos at its Mercato Mall branch from 5pm. Wok Boyz has a buy-one-get-one-free offer on its wok combos between 4pm and 7pm. And Park House will give away free coffee at its Nessnass location from 9am to noon – ideal if you want to spend time at the beach this long weekend. All on Sunday.

14. Themed treats

Black Tap recreates its famed CrazyShake, inspired by the Emirates for National Day. The vanilla-flavored shake comes with strawberry syrup, a chocolate-frosted rim, red, green and chocolate M&Ms, and topped with a giant cake slice with whipped cream and pistachio crumbles. It’s available at Black Tap branches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai from Friday to Monday, for Dh69.

Swiss chocolatier Sprungli will serve a limited-edition praline adorned with the UAE flag, as well as themed gift boxes (Dh380) at its Galleria branch on Al Maryah island.

Roxy Cinemas will serve its popcorn in themed boxes with a falcon design, created by The Label Theory, an Emirati digital experience lab. All proceeds will go to Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital.

15. New menus

Gossip Cafe will mark National Day with the launch of its new Jalsa menu, at its Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai branches. Start with the eatery’s popular chai karak, and choose three chapatis from options such as sambousek with Emirati spice; Khaleeji beef with crispy potato and cheddar); hummous with avocado, red pepper and sesame seeds; chips Oman; halloumi with pesto; and shakshuka. Sweet options include Nutella; pistachio and white chocolate; white cheese and honey; and kunafa and ashta. The Dh65 meal ends with a serving of luqaimat.


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