Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 November 2020

Parties in the streets: how Dubai and Sharjah celebrated the end of the Second World War

British archives reveal celebrations when the war was won

The Royal Air Force at Sharjah taken in 1943 or 1944. Note the outline of the base’s hangar in the top corners. Akkasah: Centre for Photography, NYU Abu Dhabi
The Royal Air Force at Sharjah taken in 1943 or 1944. Note the outline of the base’s hangar in the top corners. Akkasah: Centre for Photography, NYU Abu Dhabi

Related: How Sharjah played its part in winning the Second World War

Thousands thronged the streets and danced until sunset – news of the Allied victory in 1945 was greeted with huge fanfare in Dubai and Sharjah.

When the Germans surrendered on May 7, it drew the curtain on five years of hardship for many in what is now the UAE.

But the depth of feeling even caught the British off guard.

"The final Allied victory in Europe was celebrated with surprising enthusiasm and spontaneity," reads a report from the British archives.

"For three days, Dubai and Sharjah were en fete and the streets were thronged with large crowds following numerous dancing parties. Congratulatory messages were received from the sheikhs of Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman.

"All public buildings and private houses in Sharjah were decorated, down to the humblest reed hut. Dubai followed suit and the sheikhs (including Ajman) fired their cannons," it read.

"On the 11th, a crowd of about 2,000, men, woman and children gathered outside the [British] agency office where dancing continued until sunset."

Wednesday marks the 75th anniversary of the formal end of the Second World War. And Sharjah was central to the regional effort as an Allied base for submarine-hunting aircraft and logistical support.

The reports about the scenes marking the war’s end were unearthed in the British Library by Ali Iqbal, a historian in Dubai, who has researched and written about the effect of the war on the region.

Mr Iqbal said the celebration that took place showed people here were proud the Allies had won and world peace was restored.

"The hospitality and tolerance of the people were clearly evident through their invaluable help in rescuing crashed Allied airmen during the war," said Mr Iqbal.

The British also held a celebration party for the Sheikhs, along with British and US officers from Sharjah on May 12 to formally celebrate the victory.

"The dinner, which was the biggest of its kind ever to be given on the Trucial Coast, was much appreciated by the sheikhs and the atmosphere was most cordial."

News of Japan’s surrender about a month later in August brought more celebration. Flags were flown on government buildings in both cities. In Dubai, shops were closed for three days and 15 guns fired. But owing to Ramadan, traditional dances celebrating the end of the war were not held.

By September 2 the conflict was finally over. “The war had a historically little known but crucial role to play in the region,” said Mr Iqbal. "It is good that history is now being recognised."

Updated: September 2, 2020 05:57 PM

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