UAE-Saudi unity at Al Wathba

At the Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival, spectators applauded the arrival of King Salman. Emiratis say his appearance showed solidarity between the two countries.

Horse stunts featuring the UAE and Saudi flags at the Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival. Philip Cheung for the Crown Prince Court – Abu Dhabi
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ABU DHABI // The audience in the grandstand at the Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival on Sunday burst into applause when King Salman of Saudi Arabia arrived to watch the Union March.

Thousands in the crowd waved UAE and Saudi flags on his arrival at the festival.

Spectators said the monarch’s presence to mark the UAE’s National Day was a moment of pride, signifying both countries’ unity.

Sitting beside King Salman were Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

The performances held in honour of the king included a poetry recitation of welcome and praise, horse and camel stunts featuring the UAE and Saudi flags, and the long tribal march with participants from across the emirates.

“It’s a great honour for us all and we are highly delighted that King Salman arrived in the UAE to take part in our celebration,” said Ibrahim Al Amri, an Emirati from Abu Dhabi.

“All GCC nations are our brothers and we strive to be more united and far better than other countries when it comes to being united.”

The Union March brought together thousands of people from tribes across the UAE after the National Day celebrations on Friday.

King Salman arrived in the UAE on Saturday afternoon as part of a regional tour that includes Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Before the march started, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid toured the festival, praising it as a melting pot for Arab and world cultures. He said it was a key contributor to efforts towards instilling in youth a sense of national loyalty and identity.

He was accompanied by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, and Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, Deputy Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council. Other Sheikhs were also present.

Some GCC nationals visited the UAE to attend the Union March.

Saqar Al Hashmi came from Oman to take part, after learning about the festival on social media. He said that with the participation of King Salman and high-profile Sheikhs from the UAE, it was a great show of unity.

“All people of GCC countries work under the guidelines from their Sheikhs and Rulers in unity, and this is an example of that unity among us all,” said Mr Al Hashmi. “All Gulf countries are one.”

Another Omani, Majid Al Hashmi, was glad to see King Salman for the first time and said his presence further boosted the morale of people from Arabian Gulf countries.

“This was a grand show of being one family and all brothers from the entire GCC,” he said.

Emirati Maryam Al Bereiky travelled from Al Ain with her family to take part in the parade. “We felt very proud that a great country, Saudi Arabia, celebrates our National Day with us,” she said.

“It signifies that we are one hand against any risk and dangers posed to us. This signals a strong message to those who even think of putting the GCC countries in danger.”

The festival is held in honour of Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father, to recognise his role in preserving the country’s history as a gateway to the future. This year’s theme is the UAE as a Crossroads to Civilisations.

It takes place daily from 3pm to 10pm until January 1 on the fairgrounds in Al Wathba, on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi.

anwar@thenational.ae