Flags, stickers and large "50" signs: Abu Dhabi's revved up residents are going all in for National Day.
As the UAE gears up for its Golden Jubilee celebrations on December 2, it is the little decals that matter.
Hundreds of cars are pulling up to accessories’ shops to show their love for the country's leaders and colours as the nation turns 50.
Mussaffah, where many of the shops are based, has been turned into a sea of red, white and green as the countdown to National Day has begun.
“It has been very busy,” said Aktaruzzaman Chudhuwry, co-owner of Al Wafi car accessories’ shop.
“We have at least 100 cars coming in every day.”
Lined up on the walls of the shop are huge posters of the Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed and President Sheikh Khalifa, which have been printed for customers.
Alongside them are images of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, custom-designed to read “thank you” and “seeing you is a nation’s joy".
Other design transfers – or decals – in demand this year are stickers of the number 50 to mark the UAE's Golden Jubilee.
“Customers are mostly asking for ‘year of the 50’ stickers," said Mr Chudhuwry. "These are very popular."
Parked outside is a Nissan Patrol Nismo with that exact slogan on its windscreen.
“It’s a very special year,” Emirati Omar Al Muharrami tells me from the driver’s seat. “Exceptional, even.”
The 25 year old is visiting the shop with his two friends, who are all getting their cars ready for the festivities.
“We’re very excited for this National Day,” they said. “We’re celebrating 50 years of achievements and accomplishments.
Their newly decorated vehicles will be paraded around the capital on Thursday as part of annual celebrations.
Even though motoring makeovers have long been a National Day ritual in the UAE, car shops say they’ve had more customers this year than ever before. Celebrations are also more joyous this year after the Covid-19 pandemic subdued public events in 2020.
Fazil Hamza, owner of the Tornado shop, said this year’s numbers were a record.
“We’ve had so many people come in," said Mr Hamza. "We expected a rush for National Day but not like this.”
Behind him, three employees were plastering a large UAE flag to the side of a car, while another was waiting in turn. National Day rules are followed and cars can be decorated with appropriate words and the UAE flag as long as it does not obstruct the view of the driver or endanger others.
“The flag is as big as my love for this country and what it’s done for us,” said Emirati Hazza Al Nuaimi, 23.
“It’s the least we can do to show our appreciation.”
For Hassan Al Maazmi, 47, the Golden Jubilee celebrations are a time for joy.
“I’ve been decorating my car ever since I got my licence and I will continue to do it in the coming years,” he said.
While he holds every National Day dear to his heart, he believes the UAE’s 50th year is a milestone that must be honoured.
“What we’ve done in 50 years has not been achieved anywhere in the world,” said Mr Al Maazmi.
“They took us to Mars and beyond and this is just the start. How could we not celebrate?”