Falcons and face painting: UAE schools celebrate 52nd Union Day

Pupils, teachers and parents pay tribute to the country's culture, legacy and history

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Many UAE schools marked Union Day with carnivals, assemblies, song, dance, henna and face painting, and poetry on Wednesday, ahead of the long weekend.

Schools celebrated the country's culture, heritage and food while also highlighting the significance of the day.

There were even camels and falcons on campus, as parents, teachers and pupils marked the day together.

The UAE's Union Day, or National Day, is celebrated on December 2 every year to commemorate the formation of the country in 1971.

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

Explaining the importance of the day

Schools held early celebrations on Wednesday as distance learning will be in place for Dubai and Abu Dhabi's private educational institutions on Friday ahead of the National Day weekend.

John Bell, principal at Bloom World Academy, said: “There is a carnival-like atmosphere to the school but we also took a serious point of view with pupils.

“We had forums and assemblies and parents were invited, about 600 parents in the school, and through different forums we explained to the youngsters the importance of UAE's National Day.

“We've had celebration events, mainly traditional dances, and then everybody ate traditional Emirati food.

“We've got a camel and standard stuff but I think the important thing that we've done, which may be a little bit different, is that we talked about the reasons why the National Day is important.

“There is a sense of national identity and understanding the nation.”

On the UAE's Union Day, or National Day, citizens and residents are encouraged to come together and celebrate 52 years since the founding of the country.

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

'Vibrant and traditional'

British International School Abu Dhabi has been teaching children about the significance of the UAE's anthem and flag in the days leading up to December 2.

Principal Alan Cocker said this year’s celebrations included traditional dancing, observing falcons, poetry recitation, and Emirati food.

“It's a massive occasion. Vibrant and traditional is probably the way I would describe it,” said Mr Cocker.

“We've had acknowledgement of the UAE's achievements with videos about the country's space missions.

“The whole school is transformed as people are coming in national dress as well as in the colours of the UAE. It looks magnificent.

“People come into school with that excitement, and it just grows through the day as the events kick off. So it is a carnival atmosphere.”

Jenny Evans, senior deputy principal at Gems Royal Dubai School, said their school was a sea of red, black, white and green, with staff, parents and pupils either in national dress or the colours of the flag.

Emirati pupils led the assembly while pupils participated in activities such as creating a timeline of the growth of the Emirates.

The pupils also created a giant UAE flag featuring the handprints of every child at the school.

Learning Emirati culture and history

Kelvin Hornsby, principal at Gems World Academy Abu Dhabi, said the school held early celebrations on November 24.

Pupils showcased aspects of Emirati culture through performances, such as traditional dance, music and Emirati poetry.

“There were Quranic recitations and past, present, and future presentations. There was a UAE food festival, where students, their families and staff were able to sample traditional Emirati dishes,” said Mr Hornsby.

“In addition, there were henna painting workshops, traditional pottery, and weaving and art competitions. Our foundation stage one fashion show was especially exciting, as the learners showcased traditional Emirati dress. These inspired the community to learn more about Emirati culture, values, and history.”

In line with the UAE’s focus on sustainable development, year nine pupils composed and performed a song on environmental themes, such as preservation of the desert ecosystem and water conservation.

Updated: November 29, 2023, 1:40 PM