ABU DHABI // Emiratis and expatriates flocked to the Yas Marina Circuit on Wednesday for a day of celebrating the unity of the country.
The National Day Colours event mixed traditional and modern entertainments – aerial acrobats, high-speed zip lines and juggling displays alongside camel rides, falconry shows, calligraphy writing and ayyala dances.
The festive atmosphere reflected the Spirit of the Union instilled by the founders of the UAE, said attendees.
Khuloud Al Matrooshi, 27, who works for Abu Dhabi Police, was enjoying the celebrations with her daughters Raghad, 6 and Haya, 3.
“I’m very happy today,” she said, while relaxing on bean bags and watching adults and children hurtling down zip lines.
“My daughters are too young to know what this day means to us Emiratis. For me, it’s a day to reflect on the achievements of the UAE in the past 44 years. It was Sheikh Zayed and other rulers who helped create this wonderful day.”
Families made their way to the circuit to take photos with UAE-themed live statues and stilt walkers dressed in the colours of the national flag, enjoy the inflatable amusement rides, the magic and soap bubble shows, and wait for their turn at the calligraphy and photo booths.
Shaikh Al Hashimi, 36, an Abu Dhabi Municipality employee, came with his wife Noor, 30, and their seven-year-old daughter Fatima.
“We had her dress specially made for this occasion,” he said.
“The portrait of Sheikh Zayed is on her dress. We will never forget him and what he has done for our country.”
Like many Emiratis, Mr Al Hashimi decorated his white SUV with the red, green, white and black colours of the national flag as well as a UAE logo, and other decals.
“We do it every year to show our love for our country,” he said.
The celebrations exuded a sense of unity and belonging to the community.
Adults and children from many countries came dressed in the UAE national dress or in the colours of the flag.
“This is a wonderful day for everyone living in the UAE, not only Emiratis,” Mr Al Hashimi said. “It feels great seeing people showing their love for our country. Alhamdulillah, they have made the UAE their second home.”
For Kamran Saeed, 37, a geophysicist from Pakistan who has worked and lived in the UAE for 12 years, it was the first time to celebrate National Day with his family in such a festive atmosphere.
He came with his wife Shazia, 27, eight-year-old daughter Fatima, and two sons, Ghulam, 7, and Saad, 5.
“It feels nice celebrating this day with others,” he said. “We want to join Emiratis in showing our love and gratitude to this country, its founders and the Rulers of this country.”
For his wife Shazia, National Day was one way of giving importance to the UAE, with communities from different countries coming together to celebrate the union with Emiratis.
“It feels great celebrating National Day here,” she said. “We’re very happy, seeing our children enjoying the various activities.”
After the noise and excitement in the capital, Mrs Al Matrooshi planned to escape the city and enjoy the celebrations and the holiday in Fujairah.
“We still have three more days to celebrate,” she said.
“We have so much to be thankful for and we’re proud of what our country has become.”
For those sticking around for more celebrations, thousands of decorated vehicles are expected to gather on Yas Island for the official vehicle parade, from 4pm until 11pm on Thursday.