Both expats and Emiratis enjoy UAE National Day celebrations

On the 43rd anniversary of the founding of the UAE, The National surveys the opinion of Emiratis and expats to paint a fascinating picture of a successful young state, write Jennifer Bell and Anam Rizvi.

Fireworks, celebrations and watching the car parade top the list of activities that both Emiratis and expatriates are looking forward to this National Day, a YouGov survey has found. Sarah Dea / The National
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ABU DHABI // Fireworks, celebrations and watching the car parade top the list of activities that both Emiratis and expatriates are looking forward to this National Day, a poll has found.

The YouGov survey commissioned by The National polled 1,020 people across the country to mark National Day 2014.

It aimed to take a broad look at what residents feel about the significance of December 2, the history and development of the country and some of its key achievements.

It found that the celebrations are popular with people of all nationalities, who will get together to celebrate the UAE’s 43rd National Day.

“Celebrating at the Corniche, decorating our cars and enjoying driving around are definitely some of the highlights of National Day for us,” said Saeed Al Quwaisi, 21, an Emirati working in Abu Dhabi.

“We feel patriotic and feel good about being citizens of this country. It’s a very happy day for us. We are an open country. We always welcome people to come here.”

Residents of all nationalities were asked how they were planning to mark the celebrations.

About half (48 per cent) will be watching fireworks, especially Asian expatriates (54 per cent), 38 per cent will be going out with friends or family, 31 per cent will be visiting the Corniche, 25 per cent will be visiting the parades.

The survey found Asian expatriates were the most likely to spend the day with their families (42 per cent).

Mario Mendonca, an Indian businessman, enjoys National Day celebrations.

“I have seen how well lit the city is during National Day celebrations,” said the 50-year-old, who has travelled to Abu Dhabi for the past decade for his work in the oil and gas industry.

“The fervour with which people celebrate it here is great. For us it’s great as well as we get a holiday.”

Compared to expats, Emiratis will be mainly visiting the parade (38 per cent), celebrating at home (27 per cent) and attending heritage events (37 per cent).

“I love dressing up and putting on make-up and going out on National Day,” said Anood Ahmed, 24, a student who lives in Abu Dhabi.

“It is a day to party and we celebrate in college,” she said. “The students and teachers participate. All of us feel patriotic on the day.”

Lara Al Barazi, YouGov associate research director, said: “National Day will be widely celebrated this year by all nationalities residing in the UAE. This celebration is exuding a sense of unity and belonging to the community. While each nationality celebrates the day in their own way, this goes to show that all communities come together on National Day.”

The survey questioned Emiratis about their feelings of identity, culture and heritage and what makes them proud about the UAE as the country celebrates. Expatriates were also polled on what brought them to the Emirates.

The poll found National Day is mainly associated with patriotism and unity.

Others cited peace, prosperity, happiness, independence, hope, freedom and opportunity.

About half of all respondents (44 per cent) said they would adorn their house or car with a flag. This was particularly true for Emiratis (59 per cent) and those residing in Sharjah (51 per cent).

Others said that they would dress up in national flag colours (7 per cent).

Emiratis and Arab expatriates felt attending and participating in events were the best parts of the day.

One in five (20 per cent) of respondents particularly favours the sense of community the celebrations bring. Similarly, one in five favours attending or participating in National Day events.

The majority (54 per cent) feels celebrations had become more genuine over the past 43 years and reflect a sense of pride among UAE citizens.

A further 24 per cent feels celebrations had become more elaborate.

About one in five (19 per cent) thinks the celebrations have lost their true meaning.

However, many are frugal when it comes to spending money on the celebrations.

More than two in five respondents will spend less than Dh500 in celebrations this year.

Just three per cent of Emiratis said they would spend more than Dh5,000.

Of the 1,020 respondents, 11 per cent were Emirati, 56 per cent were Asian expatriates, 8 per cent westerners and 23 per cent Arab expatriates. The remaining 2 per cent were other nationalities.