Four years ago, the UAE won the Gulf Football Cup. This may not have registered on everyone’s radar at the time, had the streets not suddenly streamed with cars decorated in UAE colours, their passengers either riding the roofs or jumping out and silly-spraying anyone who might have been silly enough to ask what on earth was going on. Luckily for us, there is a similar swell of patriotism every year on December 2 – UAE National Day. This marks the date, now 39 years ago, when the seven emirates were first united, in Union House at the top of Diyafah Street, Satwa – the spot where the giant UAE flag now waves.
The decorated-car theme continues for this annual event, with various parades and fireworks across town, as well as boating galas and plenty of freebies. You’ll notice flags absolutely everywhere – pinned to people’s chests, lining roads and across buildings; last year Sharjah unveiled the world’s biggest flag, while Fujairah formed the longest-ever UAE flag across 413 cars. Abu Dhabi hosted the biggest fireworks display and the world’s largest mosaic work (created by Syrian artist Riyadh Nawwaf Ar-radhiya, comprised of 98,000 mosaic stones) was displayed in Mall of the Emirates. What can we possibly expect this year? Read on.
The UAE’s history
1892 The UK forms a treaty with the emirates as seven ‘Trucial Sheikhdoms’.
19th and early 20th century
The local pearl industry booms then busts, following the world wars and global economic slump. Oil is discovered in the 1960s.
1971 The UK’s treaty expires, and the sheikhdoms become independent.
The rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, then Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, decide to form an independent union between their two emirates.
December 2, 1971
The United Arab Emirates is formed between six emirates. Ras al Khaimah joins later, in early 1972.
Dubai in numbers
8 per cent At last count in 2009, the percentage of the Dubai population that is Emirati. The remaining 92 per cent is expat.
1,871,000 The total Dubai population.
1,455,000 Dubai’s male population.
416,000 Dubai’s female population.
2,885,459 Active population during the day.
5,637 Total births in Dubai between April and June 2010.
88 The number of children 64-year-old Ajman-based national Daad Murad Abdul Rahman has fathered. He is marrying again after Eid, and is hoping to reach 100 children. He currently has 50 boys and 38 girls.
Join the party!
Parades, carnivals and activities will be taking place across the city to celebrate UAE National Day. Get in the spirit!
Watch the festive parades
Every year there are huge processions all over town. One of the most popular is the parade on Beach Road, with thousands of people in national dress waving flags, doing traditional dance and playing music. Some of the sheikhs will no doubt put in an appearance, so keep your eyes peeled. Check the Dubai Culture website for a schedule.
www.dubaiculture.ae (800 4003).
Creek boat cruise
There’s often a huge boat procession on the creek for National Day; many nationals jump aboard traditional dhows and wave flags. Dubai International Marine Club will be organising its own visual feast. A convoy of watersports vessels, which may host HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, will start at the Sheraton Deira at midday. Cars along the roadsides will honk their horns and people typically let off silly string.
Dubai International Marine Club, www.dimc.ae.
Head to Mirdif City Centre for a day of celebrations
The mall has been working on a huge photography project that includes people from the UAE and those who live here. The facinating portraits are to be exhibited on the day in the mall. There’ll also be a host of National Day parades, students in costume and musical performances.
Free. 10am-6pm www.mirdifcitycentre.com (800-6422).
Go to a classic car show
Could you spot a Volvo P1800, a Ferrari 288 GTO or an Austin Healey 3000? We’re sure there are a few people who can here in the UAE. Cars have become a popular Emirati pastime, so celebrate National Day by attending a classic car show from December 2-4 and see some beautiful machines. Emaar Boulevard, near the Burj Khalifa, is hosting the event. Expect crowds.
www.emaar.com (04 367 3664).
Enjoy the fireworks
There will be firework displays happening all over town on December 2, so find a great spot to appreciate them. Try the Burj Khalifa observation deck, which is open until 10pm (www.burjkhalifa.ae, 04 888 8888), or other Dubai landmarks such as the Burj Al Arab (www.jumeirah.com, 04 366 5000) and enjoy the show.
Join a golf tournament
In the run-up to the big day, get involved in a golf tournament in celebration of UAE National Day. On December 2, enjoy a full day of sport, plus food and drink in luxurious surroundings hosted by Novo Out Inc at The Address Montgomerie Golf Club.
Dhs1,250. 1pm-7pm. www.eventbrite.com.
National Day offers
Eat National Day food at More Café
This café is celebrating National Day in an unusual way… with pasta. It’s not the first thing that comes to mind for National Day, but this exclusive coloured ‘celebration pasta’ will use fresh local ingredients and is available at More Cafés all over the city. They’ll also offer take-home packs for Dhs45 each. Locations across Dubai, include The Dubai Mall (04 339 8934) www.morecafe.biz.
Sample National Day macaroons
If you buy a coffee at Caffè Nero between December 1-3, they’ll give you a free macaroon to mark the UAE’s special day. Locations across Dubai, including The Dubai Mall, Dubai Marina Mall, Dubai Festival
City, DIFC, World Trade Centre, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Mirdif City Centre and more (04 201 1159).