SHARJAH // Young Filipino John David considers the UAE to be his home.
John, 12, was born in the country and some of the Emirati ways of celebrating National Day had clearly rubbed off on him.
“My parents are sitting with their friends and my dad promised that he would take us after a while in his car for a drive,” he said.
“I have decorated the car myself with UAE flags. We are going to honk the horn and celebrate National Day. It’s going to be a blast.
“I was born in the UAE. I have been to my home country a few times but, to be honest, I consider the UAE my home. I have great loyalty to this country.”
Emiratis and expatriates were out in force on the streets, parks, malls and waterfront to celebrate the UAE’s 43rd National Day in Sharjah.
“This day brings us joy. We are united, we are proud of our emirates,” said Yousef Mohammed, an Emirati. “My daughters are wearing a dress with the UAE flag on it. The littlest one has been singing the National Anthem since she woke up.”
Sharjah city’s main tourist spots, including the Heart of Sharjah and Al Qasba and Al Majaz Waterfronts, were packed with crowds throughout the day.
As the adults enjoyed the traditional festivities on show, groups of youngsters were busy running around the waterside, waving UAE flags.
About 40 boats took part in a parade, waved on by thousands on the quayside.
On land, a group of 20 flag-bedecked motorcyclists cruised the roads alongside hundreds of equally colourful cars.
On Corniche Street, police stopped parading vehicles to allow pedestrians to cross, and handed out UAE flags.
Meanwhile, the Spirit of the Union exhibition opened its doors at Mega Mall, while local actors and singers performed at the Jazirat Al Alam.
Hamdan Alkaabi sat with his wife sipping tea on a grassy area, both enjoying the cool winter weather.
“We are waiting for our daughter and grandsons to arrive. We are going to have lunch here in the open,” said the Emirati, who is in his 50s. “Our country has changed drastically over the past 20 years – thank God our leaders are hard workers.
“If you had been to the country 20 years ago it was a desert. Now look, we have everything, green grass, beautiful buildings, streets, everything you would imagine can be found here.
“I don’t travel much but my son tells me that through his travels in the Arab countries for business, this country is the best Arab country by far.”
Syrian Nehal Jumm’a, said the day was a chance to say thank you to the country that offered her and her family sanctuary from the problems back home.
“I ran away from the destruction and war in my country,” Ms Jumm’a said. “The UAE provided me and my family with security and stability.
“I have been here for almost two years and I doubt that my husband and I would leave this country if we ever have a choice.
“Take a look at the people around you. They are all enjoying the moment. Locals and expats are celebrating this joyous occasion. We feel at home.”
For Ahmad Morsi, National Day meant taking in the pace of development the country has witnessed over the past 43 years.
“I have been here since 2006, this country evolved so much, every year, it gets even better,” said the Egyptian lawyer. “I go around the Arab countries a lot. Nothing compares to the UAE.”
Mr Morsi said he planned to soak up the atmosphere on the streets.
“I’m waiting for my family to come,” he said. “We are going to have lunch and enjoy the hype around here.
“There is nothing better than watching the happy faces around you.”