Seeds of the Union: spectacular National Day show set among Abu Dhabi's mangroves wows the world

A giant, rotating cube was the centrepiece of the artistic performance along with vivid projections, rousing music and fireworks

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The seeds of hope planted by the UAE's forefathers 49 years ago bore fruit – and the road to success has only just begun.

That was the message delivered across the country on Wednesday in the form of a spectacular, abstract show to celebrate the UAE's National Day.

Set among Abu Dhabi's mangroves on Al Jubail Island, Seeds of the Union delivered a remarkable show, transporting viewers through history and into the future.

A giant, rotating cube was the centrepiece of the artistic performance and around it was a ring that was often occupied by Emirati children.

A combination of vivid projections, rousing music, fireworks and human performances made for a thrilling and dynamic show that paid tribute to the country's origins and celebrated how far it has come.

The performance was hailed a success by the country's leaders, who were the only people to attend the show for safety reasons.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, described the show as "a distinguished celebration that reflected pride in our national journey over the 49 years of the federation".

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, stands for the national anthem and sings its verses. Courtesy: UAE National Day

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, shared a series of images from the evening on Twitter.

"With my brothers, the Rulers of the Emirates, we look back on our achievements which are rooted in the vision of our founders. May God bless our country," he said.

The show began with an Emirati boy carrying an illuminated seed, which he planted, setting off the evening's journey.

The rotating cube began to pulse with light and roots began to grow from the centre.

“A seed sown in the soil of devotion and a hand generously watering it, wishing to reap the fruits of tomorrow,” the narrator said.

Images of the country's founding Rulers were projected as viewers were taken on a journey through the country's history.

Emiratis and residents working on the front lines of Covid-19, including a Filipina nurse and an Emirati policeman in Ras Al Khaimah, narrated the challenges faced by the world this year, but also how these were being tackled.

The stories of four inspirational figures were heard, including Maj Hazza Al Mansouri, the UAE's first astronaut, who told of how his dreams of seeing space from his home in the Liwa desert became a reality.

Chaica Al Qassimi, an Emirati martial arts athlete with special needs, spoke of her struggle and determination to compete and win in the Special Olympics.

Dubai dazzles as the city lights up for UAE National Day

Dubai dazzles as the city lights up for UAE National Day
Dubai dazzles as the city lights up for UAE National Day

Each story demonstrated the overarching message of the show: that adversity could be overcome with enough ambition and resolve.

"Thankfully we have planted a lot and harvested a lot but there is more to be harvested," Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father, was heard saying, referring to the country's achievements.

"I am proud of what I have found in young men and women in the UAE. I send my greetings to them."

The annual National Day show is typically held in a packed stadium at Zayed Sports City but this year, owing to the Covid-19 outbreak, the show was live-streamed online and broadcast to the nation on TV to protect public health.

But a sense of community was achieved when a video made up of short clips recorded by Emiratis and residents singing the national anthem was included in the show and the country's Rulers were seen standing for the song.

The show was directed by Es Devlin, a British artist who designed ceremonies for major global events, such as the London and Rio Olympics.

The theme this year was the mangrove tree and nature.

Mangroves, small trees that grow in salt water, are an important part of the UAE's ecosystem. Estimated to cover more than 150 square kilometres of the coastline, mangroves have long been viewed as a crown jewel in the nation's heritage.

In the 1970s, large-scale mangrove plantation programmes were initiated by Sheikh Zayed.

Earlier on Wednesday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed each shared a video of the emirates' Rulers walking among mangroves.

A recording of Sheikh Zayed can be heard explaining that many varieties of trees were planted across the country, but they could only find one that could survive in the salty sea water of the coast – the mangrove.

"On the 49th National Day of the UAE, we remain grateful to those who planted the seeds of our union. We are proud of what we have achieved so far and we will honour our forefathers by continuing to take the country forward into an ever brighter future," Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said on Twitter.