How residents are preparing to enjoy National Day after a tough year

December 2 parades were put on hold to avoid gatherings - but the significance of the day will not be lost

As the busy holiday season approaches, residents in the UAE promised to put safety first when the country unites to celebrate National Day on December 2.

Families have made plans to hold muted celebrations with loved ones to observe the 49th anniversary of the UAE, and gatherings will be decidedly different for 2020.

The usual National Day parades are being put on hold to avoid large crowds gathering in one spot.

Considering all the fond memories I hold of this day back in 1971 and having had the fortune to be physically present at the signing of the Federation, you can imagine how nostalgic this day is to me

Instead, families, businesses and individuals will mark the day with low-key celebrations while social distancing rules remain in place.

Car enthusiasts adorn portraits of Founding Father Sheikh Zayed and today's Rulers on their vehicles. And restaurants and shops will drape colours of the UAE flag on their facades.

The National spoke to residents across the Emirates to find out how they would be celebrating safely this year.

Ramesh Shukla, 82, is a renowned photographer in the UAE. He has been taking photos of the royals since 1968, even before the UAE was formed.

“December 2 is always a very significant date for me and my family,” he said.

“Considering all the fond memories I hold of this day back in 1971 and having had the fortune to be physically present during the signing of the federation, you can imagine how nostalgic this day is to me.

“I have made it a point for many years now to visit the site where the first flag of the UAE was hoisted and proudly displayed.

"This year will be different because of the precautions we must follow to combat the Covid-19 pandemic."

DUBAI UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 22 NOVEMBER 2020. Photographer and painter Ramesh Shukla, at his home in Dubai. Ramesh took pictures of the Spirit of the Union in 1970 and has been steadily documenting the UAE throughout the years ammasing a body of work unparralled in the history of the country. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Kelly Clarke. Section: National.

Instead, Mr Shukla will probably stay at home with his grandchildren and close family to re-tell his recollections of that historic day.

“I always try to share with them my vivid memories, as I watched our Founding Fathers sign the documents that gave birth to the country in which they were born,” he said.

“The moment I clicked my camera on that day in 1971, I knew I had the perfect photograph.”

For Abu Dhabi resident Abdulla Alblooshi, the pandemic inspired his celebration plans for December 2.

As an Emirati and co-founder of Desert Shield Fitness, a company specialising in obstacle course races, he will host a group fitness workout at Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal.

“Each exercise will be themed around the number 49, for each year the UAE has been in existence,” he said.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, November 24, 2020.   Desert Shield Fitness - Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal.  (L-R) Rolf Jager, Abdulla Al Blooshi and Mohammed Ibrahim.
Victor Besa/The National
Reporter:  Kelly Clarke
Section:  NA
For:  Standalone/Stock

“Our ancestors never had the luxuries that we have today. They walked for miles each day and exercise was part of daily life without them even knowing it.

“I think this is a good way to honour my brothers and sisters of the past and, actually, it’s been proven that people with better immunities are less affected by the coronavirus.

“We want to encourage people to be fit physically and mentally because it’s been a tough year.”

On December 2, from 10am to 12 noon, Mr AlBlooshi and his colleagues Ibrahim Alshamsi and Rolf Jager will lead 10 exercises consisting of 49 repetitions.

In the Northern emirates, the day will be celebrated at home by many families.

Rashid Al Shehhi from Ghalilah, a town in Ras Al Khaimah, said it was his duty to his country to keep safe during the pandemic.

DUBAI UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 19 NOVEMBER 2020. Rashid Al Shehhi, an Emirati decorated his home village of Ghalilah in Ras Al Khaimah with flags and pictures of the UAE leaders. For a story about the preparations to celebrate the UAE National Day. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Ruba Haza. Section: National.

“We should stand by our country and follow the precautionary measures,” he said.

"We used to attend events that celebrate National Day, but with the coronavirus, I decided to create a festive atmosphere in the town by decorating the street with flags and posters of our beloved UAE leaders," he said.

Mr Al Shehhi, 34, installed 126 UAE flags and two huge posters of UAE leaders in the town, including one of Sheikh Zayed.

“Anyone who visits the town or drives down the street can feel the celebratory vibes,” he said.

”It’s my way to share my love and gratitude to my country with the rest of the world.”

Jamila Abdulkareem, 31, a Syrian who lives in Fujairah, said her family will miss the National Day carnivals that used to take place in her neighbourhood each year.

‎“I'm not an Emirati but I call this country home‎,” she said.

"My children were born and raised in the UAE. It is their home too and celebrating National Day is part of our annual traditions and something we truly enjoy.

“We enjoyed the Emirati sweets, folk dances and activities at National Day carnivals each year.

“This year is different and we all should show our gratitude by following the measures put in place to fight the virus.”

This year, the Abdulkareem family will celebrate at home and decorate the apartment with the colours of the UAE flag.

In Sharjah, Filipina business owner Lourds Adalia-Evertse, 34, plans to decorate her entire restaurant, Spice Grill, with UAE flags and balloons.

“We also have a little gift for any 49-year-old guest that comes to our restaurant,” she said.

“We will also have a family day on December 2 where kids can enjoy painting and balloon twisting with extra safety precautions in place.”

Living in the UAE for many years, Ms Adalia-Evertse said she considered it her second home.

“The UAE has been doing a great job with prioritising our health and safety during this difficult time,” she said.

“It’s now time to pay back with respect and celebrate and honour the 49th National Day by abiding by the rules.”

Last week, the authorities issued a set of rules listing precautionary measures for larger events, such as concerts, that may be held over the upcoming holidays, such as National Day, Christmas and New Year.