When is UAE's National Day 2023 and why is it celebrated?

Everything you need to know about celebrations marking the founding of the Emirates

Children participate in the 51st UAE National Day show at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. Presidential Court
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The UAE's National Day is just around the corner, with citizens and residents encouraged to come together and celebrate 52 years since the founding of the country.

Several official celebrations are set to take place to mark the occasion, with the main event at Expo City Dubai, where the country will host the Cop28 climate change conference.

The National Day organising committee announced plans to stage an official ceremony that will feature “innovative technologies and breathtaking projections” to display the UAE's rich heritage.

Here is all you need to know about the public holiday.

When is National Day?

The UAE's National Day is celebrated on December 2 every year.

It is preceded by Commemoration Day, on November 30, which is dedicated to those who lost their lives serving the country.

Authorities have said December 2, 3 and 4 will be a paid holiday for public and private sector workers.

Why does the UAE celebrate National Day?

The UAE celebrates National Day to commemorate the formation of the country in 1971.

The holiday marks the day that six emirates bound together to form the UAE, with Ras Al Khaimah joining as the seventh emirate the following year.

UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, led efforts to unite the emirates and became the first president.

Sheikh Zayed's son, Sheikh Khalifa, served as president from 2004 until his death in May 2022.

President Sheikh Mohamed was elected that month.

In his first National Day address as President in December last year, Sheikh Mohamed emphasised that the UAE will be a strong supporter of humanity and its development.

“Taking care of our citizens and opening up all avenues of development, creativity and self-affirmation before them has been, and will always remain, our top priority and we will spare no effort to achieve this goal,” Sheikh Mohamed said.

What events are planned for National Day 2023?

Preparations are gathering pace for this year's showpiece ceremony at Expo City Dubai.

The organising committee said the official ceremony will show the UAE's rich heritage through various elements of Sadu weaving, which is to be used to symbolise the “threads of unity and sustainability across history”.

The show will begin at the roots of Emirati culture and heritage and highlight the relationship between tradition and technology.

Through performances and storytelling, the National Day show will tell the UAE’s vision of a sustainable future where the world works together to overcome climate challenges through innovation and collective action.

The official ceremony will be broadcast live on December 2 on all local TV channels, as well as on the official website www.UnionDay.ae

The show will be open to the public from December 5 to 12. Details on tickets will be announced soon, state news agency Wam reported.

Several venues in Abu Dhabi have announced plans to host entertainment and cultural activities on December 2.

The biggest draws every year, however, are awe-inspiring pyrotechnics displays, with shows planned at Al Maryah Island, Yas Bay Waterfront and Al Wathba at the Sheikh Zayed Festival. Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental is hosting a pyrotechnics and light show on the beach.

How National Day was celebrated in the early years after the UAE was formed – in pictures

Updated: November 24, 2023, 4:09 AM