Closure of Corniche doesn’t spoil RAK’s party

Road safety fears put brake on motorists’ parade but high spirits win the day as national colours ruled the streets.
Ahmed Huraiz makes a final check on his friends’ cars before heading out from Wadi Shaam to Ras Al Khaimah’s corniche. Reem Mohammed / The National
Ahmed Huraiz makes a final check on his friends’ cars before heading out from Wadi Shaam to Ras Al Khaimah’s corniche. Reem Mohammed / The National

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Celebrations in Ras Al Khaimah took an unexpected turn when police closed the Corniche.

Unperturbed, thousands of motorists continued to parade in the car parks, alleyways and residential neighbourhoods beside the Corniche, beeping their horns in happiness.

The police said they had no plans to open the Corniche, citing safety concerns.

“We told the public nobody can make a parade without permission,” said Maj Marwan Al Mansoori, head of public relations and moral guidance for the Ras Al Khaimah Police. “We mentioned in all of the newspapers that you cannot do a parade without permission.”

Few expected that the annual National Day car parade, an impromptu modern tradition, would be cancelled.

“We are very sorry if anyone was upset but our main target is to make people safe,” said Maj Al Mansoori.

With roads blocked, Emiratis and expatriates gathered together on the Corniche. By nine o’clock, when it was clear that no car parade would begin, they formed processions in the Corniche park, walking side by side carrying enormous UAE flags.

Before the big day, residents spent time and effort doing up their vehicles for the big day.

Ali Laha, a farmer from Wadi Ghalilah who had decorated his pick-up for trips to his palm garden, and his Lexus saloon for the parade.

“I’ve got three big sheikhs on my Lexus,” Mr Laha said. “Baba Zayed, Sheikh Khalifa and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed.”

Mr Laha decided only this week on the decorations that included Sheikh Zayed, the founding father, President Sheikh Khalifa and Sheikh Mohammed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

For others, planning took months.

Abdul Sultan Rajput, a Pakistani resident of 36 years, used his sky-blue 1984 Datsun to display his mechanical prowess and tenacious patriotism for his adopted country. He began decorating it on October 25.

The centrepiece is a framed photo of Sheikh Zayed on the bonnet, surrounded by several yards of tinsel and newer, bigger and better lights than those of years past.

The RAK Municipality followed his example and invested in a new lights display. But outside town the landscape had not been altered, unlike previous years.

National emblems, once reserved for special occasions, have become a permanent part of the landscape in the Northern Emirates.

Cars also remained comparatively bare after an enforcement of 2011 decoration laws. It was a lean year for the artists who paint cars with sweeping tendrils and lines of poetry.

The old RAK market where they work, usually packed solid in the pre-National Day rush, was almost empty the night before. “Maybe it’s because of police,” said Rehman Shah Lal Mohammed, an artist from the Swat Valley in Pakistan.

“Maybe it’s because painting is forbidden.”

A few men visited the artists’ shop days before, flipping through photo albums of work and scrolling through mobile phone images.

But when the day came, most opted for car decals of Dubai and Abu Dhabi sheikhs.

Mayed Al Shehhi, 22, an Abu Dhabi police officer, covered his front windscreen with a photo of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and the falcon emblem of the Union Defence Force.

Those with the flashiest cars went to the capital. A few chose to stay in RAK and risk fines.

“We’re not afraid,” said Humaid Mohammed, 32, a citizen from RAK who spent hundreds of dirhams to paint his car in national colours.

“This is for our country. This is for Sheikh Khalifa.”

Published: December 2, 2014 04:00 AM


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