Timeframe: From Umm Kulthum to George Michael, the concerts inspired by UAE's Union Day

The country has a rich tradition of eclectic concerts to celebrate the occasion

British pop star George Michael performed at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi in 2008. AP Photo
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Music has always been pivotal in the UAE's Union Day celebrations.

From the country’s founding in 1971 and subsequent celebrations since, artists have performed in numerous concerts and festivals.

As part of the first celebration of the country's formation, the UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, invited revered Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum for an Abu Dhabi concert on the eve of December 2, 1971.

The show was held in a concert hall now known as Al Nahyan Stadium, behind Al Wahda Mall.

The official invitation addressed to Umm Kulthum by Sheikh Zayed showed its value in what is the UAE's most historic day.

“It is our pleasure to invite the Lady of the Arabic Song to visit Abu Dhabi to see our landmarks and to witness our achievements during a short period,” the letter read.

"It will also be a great source of pleasure and pride for us to hear your tender voice and beautiful melodies. We are hoping that you have the time to make this visit, on the occasion of the National Day of our country.”

The following year Egyptian singer Nagat Al Saghira's Union Day show was preceded by the first performance of the UAE national anthem, Ishy Bilady.

As the decades passed, the music events became more eclectic and included non-Arab talents as well.

On December 1, 2008, Abu Dhabi hosted one its biggest concerts with UK pop star George Michael at Zayed Sports City Stadium.

The show concluded what was meant to be his final world tour with more than 30,000 people grabbing tickets to see the former Wham! singer live.

Those arriving early to the show were able to see then up-and-coming star Alicia Keys in the support slot.

In 2014, orchestral rock highlighted a Union Day gig at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre. Abu Dhabi's 42-piece National Symphony Orchestra played songs from English band Queen.

A more refined affair was held at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports Stadium for the 47th Union Day celebrations in 2018.

Emirati musicians and members from London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performed The Legacy of Our Ancestors, a sweeping piece composed for the occasion.

From Emirati folk and classical Egyptian music to orchestral scores and western pop, the music heard at Union Day events reflect the dynamism and diversity of the UAE.

Updated: December 01, 2023, 6:01 PM