The Surreal water feature, a major hit during the Expo 2020 World Fair, became the backdrop for a celebration of Arabic culture led by Emirati poet AlWasmy.
Across Expo City, cultural performances took place through late afternoon and as night fell, huge immersive projections appeared on the walls of Al Wasl Plaza to celebrate the UAE.
For Egyptian Ahmed Araby, a managing director in Sharjah who was with his daughter, Nada, it was a first visit to the Expo site.
“I have lived in the UAE for 15 years, so this country means a lot to our family. We wanted to come somewhere special to celebrate,” he said.
“There are lots of activities and it is easy to get around. Of course, I have a flag outside my house to celebrate the country, like many homes in Sharjah.”
Visitors enjoy Emirati hospitality and traditions
Visitors to Expo City enjoyed a taste of Emirati hospitality and traditions, with a cultural market and roving bands who would break into traditional song and dance as they toured the site.
The six-month Expo 2020 Dubai, which ended on March 31, attracted more than 24 million visits. On Friday, organisers welcomed thousands more visitors to the repurposed site to celebrate National Day.
Activities took place at Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion, Alif – The Mobility Pavilion and the Vision Pavilion, where visitors could get involved with arts and crafts, photography exhibitions and traditional workshops.
Visual performances inspired by the land, wind and sea were beamed on to the huge Al Wasl dome.
Visitors were given a virtual tour of a traditional Emirati home and a display of pottery and Talli weaving — a craft developed by braiding different strands of thread to create long, narrow strips of textile with fine, elaborate patterns.
Canadians Amor and Noel Rivera were visiting Dubai for the first time, while on a cruise, and could not believe their luck they landed in the UAE on National Day at the height of festivities.
“We landed in Dubai from Athens on Friday morning and checked into our hotel at 10am,” said Ms Rivera.
“Expo was on our to-do list but we had no idea there was a big event on, so we have been quite lucky.
“When we were in Abu Dhabi, we could see all the flags going up so it has been nice to be here at a special time for the country.”
In the evening, crowds descended on Al Wasl Plaza for a live performance by singers Eida Al Menhali, from the Emirates, and Dalia Mubarak, from Saudi Arabia.
“Throughout the year, we are driven by the love for our nation, leaders and people,” said Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Co-operation and chief executive of Expo City Dubai Authority.
“Every December 2, we renew our pledge of allegiance to our homeland and our leaders and our commitments to further national progress, and to advance co-operation and partnerships that reinforce the UAE as a place of peace, prosperity, love and security for all.”