Emirati tribes bring heritage and history to National Day weekend

The Union Parade in Al Wathba draws citizens from across the nation to celebrate tradition

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A parade of the country's tribes drew thousands of Emiratis to Abu Dhabi this weekend, for a cultural celebration of heritage and history.

At the Sheikh Zayed Festival in Al Wathba, citizens from every emirate engaged in song, poetry and dance.

On Saturday, 120 tribes gathered — and thousands of people came to watch them.

While the occasion celebrates family ties, tradition and geographic characteristics, together they chant 'our tribe is the UAE’, which was formed 51 years ago on Friday.

The crowd was thrilled by the appearance of President Sheikh Mohamed and members of the ruling family.

The gathering is an opportunity to express our loyalty and pride in the way our country has become and prospered throughout the years
Helal Al Shehi, Shihuh tribe of Ras Al Khaimah

“We are all Mohamed bin Zayed," were the chants from the marchers.

Riders on horseback performed on a track, joining hands as they rode at speed in a synchronised display.

“The gathering is an opportunity that we seize to express our loyalty and pride in the way our country has become and prospered throughout the years," said Helal Al Shehi, 69, an Emirati from Ras Al Khaimah.

Senior Emiratis such as Mr Al Shehi lived through the years of rapid change under UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who created a modern nation and a burgeoning economy that continues to grow today.

“He established schools and universities to invest in humans and minds," he said.

"What UAE achieved was based on the wisdom of our leaders and their unity which all are proud of."

Saeed Al Dhuhoori, 40, said all tribes were coming to participate in the parade, to pay respect and show allegiance to the UAE rulers.

“It’s like Eid in here, where everyone dresses up and expresses their loyalty and pride," he said.

"This is an epic gathering and effort that brings an entire community together, much like the creation of the country did when seven emirates became one, 51 years ago."

“In the past we were talking about UAE vision 2021, and now we are talking about the country’s vision in 2071.

Saeed Al Teneiji, whose tribe can be traced back to Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah, also lived through the years of Sheikh Zayed.

"I lived before the union and know what kind of achievements happened in this land," he said.

"Every year we gather in the occasion to celebrate the country’s and thank our leaders for achieving the vision of late Sheikh Zayed.”

For young Rashid Al Tuneiji, 17, the occasion is an opportunity to learn how each of the tribes and families united.

Saeed Al Dhuhoori of the Al Dhuhoori tribe of Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah. Antonie Robertson / The National

"The country runs in my veins and celebrating its achievements is our duty,” he said.

Like many others, he wants to ensure the country's tradition, culture and language is preserved — while studying the language of the future: artificial intelligence.

He's specialising in computer science and wants to be play a key role in the nation's hi-tech ambitions.

"Maybe one day I'll be working at the future Ministry of AI," he said.

For Mohammed Al Alwi, 16, from Al Ain, this is the first time he has attended the Union Parade with his father and tribe members.

“It’s a proud moment for me," he said.

Updated: December 04, 2022, 10:09 AM