Dubai schools set up souqs and carnivals to showcase Emirati culture, heritage and food as pupils across the country prepared to mark the UAE’s National Day.
Some schools in the Emirates kicked off celebrations last week, while for many the festive atmosphere kicked in this week as institutions launched into full swing with henna and storytelling tents on campus.
Campbell Douglas, principal at Gems Wellington Academy Al Khail, said the school had its largest ever National Day celebration this year.
"We had bouncy castles, camels and horses and we had a souq which was like a village with many activities for the pupils," he said on Tuesday.
"This is the first time we have had such a big celebration. It was a very festive and carnival-like atmosphere at the school today with lots of music, dancing and activities."
About 2,200 pupils participated in the day-long celebration.
Abdulaziz Alotaiba, a 17-year-old Emirati pupil at the school, said the event was a chance to showcase the UAE's culture and food.
"This is a good opportunity to show pupils our culture and they could learn about the UAE through this experience," he said.
"Pupils were enjoying themselves, some were getting henna applied and others were getting their faces painted."
The year-13 pupil said celebrating National Day was all about marking the journey of the UAE.
"We all celebrate it because the UAE has improved so much in 51 years," he said. "Our great-grandparents lived in tents. I am really proud of my country.
"We have a big family and we sit with our family [on National Day] and meet our grandmother and spend the day together. She shows us pictures of our grandfather and tells us about how we used to live."
Ali Rustam, a 17-year-old Emirati, said pupils learnt about the country’s past and heritage through the various National Day celebrations at school.
At Jebel Ali School, pupils were involved in many activities throughout the day on Tuesday, including visiting an Emirati storytelling tent, singing the UAE national anthem and enjoying a performance by visiting Yola dancers.
In the primary school, each year group adopted an emirate for the day and learnt associated facts, such as its population and leader.
“We had a visiting falcon demonstration for the pupils to enjoy, there was a selection of Emirati food for the pupils to taste and of course everyone was invited to wear a kandura, an abaya or colours of the UAE flag," said principal Simon Jodrell.
Year 13 Emirati pupil, Aaliyah, prepared assemblies where she talked about the history, heritage and culture of the UAE.
These assemblies ran throughout the day giving pupils from the primary and secondary school the opportunity to learn more about the UAE.
Burj Khalifa created by pupils
Pupils at The Indian High Group of Schools, Oud Metha, created a programme called 'IHS loves UAE – in the fitness of things', which included sports, music, dance and displays to mark Dubai Fitness Challenge and the UAE’s National Day.
The grand finale in their 51st National Day celebrations involved almost 2,500 pupils forming the shape of Burj Khalifa in the colours of the UAE flag on the school’s football field, with Dr Aman Puri, Consul General of India, as the chief guest.
The special programme had pupils sing and dance to the tunes of Emirati traditional music. Members of the board of trustees, staff and Dr Puri played dodge ball, seven stones, tic-tac-toe and participated in quizzes.
Pupils at the American Academy for Girls in Dubai celebrated with traditional dance and songs.
The school also included the recitation of some of the verses of the Quran.
All alumni were invited.
The Dubai Police marching band performed at the school while pupils engaged in making traditional arts and crafts.