Celebrate National Day

Six very different Emiratis and their National Day customs

Maisoon Al Saleh
Maisoon Al Saleh
Mohsin Alrazi
Mohsin Alrazi
Ahmed Bukhatir
Ahmed Bukhatir
Fatma Obaid Farhan
Fatma Obaid Farhan
Saif Alzaabi
Saif Alzaabi
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Sarah Belhasa

36, Owner of fashion boutique Studio 8 and vice Chairman of the Saif Belhasa Group

Lives: Mirdif

Hobbies: Relaxing on my farm in Al Awir. We have all sorts of animals and do our own vegetation. It’s an essential break from my hectic schedule during the week.

How do you celebrate?
The children like to put out flags, and they get a holiday to be with their family.

How do you feel about the number of expats living in Dubai today?
They help us learn how to interact with foreigners and face the world more easily.

How can expats get to know local culture better?
People here know about our culture already. So many different people come to my store – I have groups of Emiratis, Iranians, Indians and Pakistani clients. Everybody knows each other’s cultures; we go to their parties, they come to ours. Many Europeans buy saris to go to Indian weddings. Others want to hold an abaya party.

What would you change about Dubai?
I love the city as it is!

How has life changed for you and your family over the past 39 years?
I remember after I got married in 1998, I was staying in Jumeirah and there was no Burj Khalifa. I remember going to City Centre and BurJuman. So many things have taken place since then – there are new malls, new technology. The city is growing and growing – it has become faster. Before, it was very laid-back. People would do something once a month. Now there is a festival every day. A lot of Emiratis are working, ladies are into fashion. Everyone is doing something.


Fatma Obaid Farhan

33, manager of marketing and communication for Dubai World Central

Lives: Deira (‘since I was born!’)

Hobbies: Fashion design, swimming, table tennis and browsing the web.

National Day means…
A reminder to me and my generation that if a small nomadic tribe can create a strong country, then we can achieve even greater heights with will, determination and collective effort.

How do you celebrate?
We have a company celebration. I’m the marketing manager, so I organise a gathering. The offices are decorated with flags, and staff come to work wearing flag pins and symbols of National Day. At home we join the National Day parade. We decorate our cars and join the crowds in Deira.

Apart from your passport, what makes you a UAE national?
My values, beliefs and culture are deeply rooted in the UAE. I enjoy wearing an abaya because it reflects who I am. I am proud of my Arabic language and local accent. It is who I am. I read about UAE history and culture.

How do you feel about the number of expats living in Dubai today?
I appreciate the diversity. The number of nationalities and their backgrounds have helped to shape the UAE and define its cosmopolitan environment.

What can expats do to get to know Emirati culture better?
Expats should be open-minded and curious about Emirati culture. Just ask. The UAE culture is open and friendly, but reserved. We have a culture rooted in religion and we would also appreciate it if expats could respect that.

What would you like to see changed about the UAE?
I’d like to see less rushing around and more appreciation of time. plus more care for culture as opposed to money and business. I’d also like fewer traffic jams and more walking areas!

How has life changed for 9 years?
My father used to live in a house built with palm leaves. The water used to be brought from wells. Schools were not available to all. I have a driving licence and my own car to commute, which was unthinkable 20 years ago.


Maisoon Al Saleh

22, artist and interior designer

Lives: Near Dubai Airport

Hobbies: Diving, attending events and hanging out with friends.

How do you celebrate?
There’s normally a parade where a group of cars follow each other in different locations. We go and cheer at the side. When I was at university, all the students celebrated together. Some would have funky nail polish and eyeshadow and go with the flag colour scheme, but I express it more through my paintings.

Apart from your passport, what makes you a UAE national?
Being a UAE national is not based on a passport. We have other nationalities here too and they celebrate with us. I know a lot of foreigners here and I know they love celebrating National Day. They’ve been living here for 35 years – they describe themselves as nationals as well.

How do you feel about the number of expats living in Dubai today?
It’s good to know other cultures to learn more.

How can expats get to know local culture better?
There is a centre in Jumeirah [Sheikh Mohammed Centre of Cultural Understanding, www.cultures.ae, 04 353 6666]. They can take you to the mosque and different Emirati places.

How has life changed for you and your family over the past 39 years?
When my parents first built our house, before 1988, it was so isolated. There weren’t many buildings on Sheikh Zayed Road, and now we have the Burj Khalifa. Education, industry – basically everything has changed!


Saif Alzaabi

26, executive secretary

Lives: Abu Dhabi

Hobbies: Music and keyboards.

What does National Day mean to you?
That all the Emiratis are united.

How do you celebrate?
We celebrate at work with UAE flags and decorations, and some people give chocolates.

How do you feel about the number of expats living in Dubai today?
They consider the UAE their second home. It’s a great thing.

What can expats do to get to know Emirati culture better?
Make friendships and be social.

What would you like to see changed about the UAE?
It’s one of the best places in the world, but if I had to pick something, it would be the weather.


Mohsin Alrazi

45, subsea engineer for Dubai Petroleum

Lives: Festival City, Dubai

Hobbies: I love extreme sports; I ride motorbikes, go off-roading and do motocross.

How do you celebrate National Day?
We go out driving at night and I take my kids out to join in the parades.

How do you feel about the number of expats living in Dubai today?
Perhaps we are starting to lose our identity, but it doesn’t cause serious problems; the expats are very welcome.

What can expats do to get to know Emirati culture better?
The problem is that most don’t mix with Emiratis; they stick to their own groups and don’t discover the UAE. Emiratis are very generous and enjoy getting to know people. I’d recommend joining a group, such as a bikers group.

What would you like to see changed about the UAE?
It could slow down a little. You cannot change everything overnight, but it’s a hospitable place. I feel proud to be here and love it. This is a safe and giving country. There has been so much progress in 39 years –
the rulers really care for it and it’s a peaceful and open society.


Ahmed Bukhatir

35, businessman and singer

Lives: Sharjah

Interests: Writing, reading, playing video games, browsing the web and socialising.

What does National Day mean to you?
National Day is when the cities of all the emirates join hand in hand.

How do you celebrate?
People go out in the day and honk their horns; some people write about it or give their thoughts on radio and TV.

How do you feel about the number of expats living in Dubai today?
I’m happy that it’s becoming a multicultural country; we are looking at different cultures and understanding, we are not closed-minded. But we need to preserve the UAE’s culture and learn good things from each culture.

What can expats do to get to know Emirati culture better?
I have foreign friends from all over the world. I speak English and French – I was proactive with it. There are many groups who can inform people about the culture and keep you up to date with locals.

Apart from your passport, what makes you a UAE national?
It’s everything – the food we eat, our closeness to our families and our principles.

What would you like to see changed about the UAE?
I’d like it to concentrate more on education and creative minds, not just business.

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