Pakistanis in the UAE spent the weekend celebrating their country’s Independence Day with family gatherings, dinner at popular restaurants serving up a taste of home, and dressing up in the national colours of green and white.
More than a million Pakistanis call the UAE their home from home, though they try to keep their country’s traditions alive in their daily lives and on special occasions such as August 14.
Sundas Nawaz, 36, was born and raised in the UAE, but still visits Pakistan often to stay in touch with her culture.
Ahead of Independence Day, she celebrated in her Sharjah home, which she decorated with green and white balloons, dressing her children in traditional attire from different provinces of Pakistan.
“Pakistanis make up the second highest expat population in the UAE. Many of us have been here a long time and we love celebrating Independence Day in full force,” she said.
“Even though we are celebrating it outside of Pakistan, we feel really at home in the UAE.
“This country has won people’s hearts with their hospitality and humanity, which is why Pakistanis feel happy calling it their second home.
“I would like to wish Pakistanis everywhere a happy Independence Day.
“With positivity, unity and faith, we can lead Pakistan to a better and more prosperous future.”
Hope amid adversity
Pakistanis are celebrating the special day at a time when the country is facing a political crisis and skyrocketing inflation.
Haroon Tahir, 28, who was born and raised in the UAE, said that it was important for Pakistanis to stay positive.
“We are going through tough political and economic times as nation and it’s important we stand by our values of strength and resilience in the face of adversity,” he said.
“We, as Pakistanis, are known to have a strong work ethic and stand strong when faced with challenges and we should continue to do so. I’m confident that Pakistan will find better times ahead."
Mr Tahir is the third generation in his family to call the UAE his second home.
He started his Independence Day celebrations early over the weekend, watching a cricket match with his parents and three siblings in their Dubai home before they went out for dinner as a family.
“We feel quite welcomed. Pakistanis have been such an integral part of the UAE’s growth and I’m part of the third generation in my family that has lived, worked and followed their dreams here,” he said.
“My grandfather came here in 1963 when Abu Dhabi was just a sheikhdom, a small city that you could explore in less than half a day.
“He told us of a time when there was no fresh milk or fresh vegetables available, and his favourite snack were a few dates and canned rainbow milk.”
Pakistani resident Ayesha Sohail, the founder of a women-only Facebook group in the UAE with nearly 27,000 members, held an event at a Dubai restaurant to celebrate both Pakistan's Independence Day, as well as India's, which falls on August 15.
She said they sang each of the countries' national anthems and had a cake-cutting ceremony.
“We celebrated both of the days together,” she said.
“We also had ladies from both countries who have successful careers here in the UAE to give a special talk.”