The UAE was awash with celebrations yesterday as people came together for the nation’s 41st birthday.
Even the occasional downpour of rain, causing delays and cancellations of a few events, did not stand in the way of the Spirit of the Union.
Nor did it stop people turning the country into a landscape of red, green, white and black.
Each emirate had an abundance of fun-filled activities.
In Abu Dhabi, camel rides, hooded falcons and traditional dancing were the main attractions at the Heritage Village yesterday.
Visitors explored a traditional market, watched local women give cooking displays and learnt about the UAE’s agricultural history.
Despite warnings of fines and vehicle impounding from police in the weeks leading up to National Day, many residents adorned their cars with stickers, boas, flags and pictures of the UAE’s Rulers.
In Dubai, police banned parades of decorated cars for safety reasons.
The second annual Downtown Dubai Parade went ahead as planned and attracted hundreds of residents who thronged the Emaar Boulevard on Sunday afternoon. Organisers said more than 3,500 took part in the parade of floats, motorcycles and more than 10,000 flags.
A Mercedes jeep covered in Dh1 coins was unveiled at the parade. The windows of the car had images of the Rulers of the seven emirates.
In Sharjah, a huge UAE flag was raised up a 123-metre tall flag pole – the seventh tallest in the world – which was inaugurated by Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah.
The event, opposite Al Jazeera Park, featured a march and musical shows by the Sharjah Police band.
At the emirate’s Al Majaz Waterfront, spectators watched cultural dances, firework displays and multimedia shows at the Sharjah Fountain in the evening.
Drivers in Ras Al Khaimah seemed to have been exempt from any enforcement of Ministry of Interior directives on car decorations. Many spent their weekend rewiring vehicles for twinkling fairy lights.
At Fujairah City Centre, there were a variety of games, traditional dances, marine songs and a children’s dancing show.
Shoppers there had been invited to write a letter at postcard stations about why they love the UAE. The letters were compiled to be presented to the President, Sheikh Khalifa.
And at Ajman’s Corniche, a Guinness World Record attempt saw 40,000 Chinese lanterns decorated in UAE colours light up the sky on Sunday night.
There was a range of UAE-themed activities at the emirate’s City Centre during the day, giving children the chance to get involved with different arts and crafts, ranging from making coloured jewellery, hats, sand art, flags and pottery.
There was also a march on the Corniche, as there was in Umm Al Quwain.
In Al Ain, locals celebrated by visiting the reopened historic Souq Al Qattara, while others visited Green Mubazzarah and Jebal Hafeet, where there was a horse parade and other National Day activities.
Fireworks were seen in various places around the country, including Dubai’s Global Village, which organised the emirate’s only fireworks display for December 2.
It was part of the week-long ‘Union Festival’ that also saw Emirati singers and traditional dancers perform.
In Abu Dhabi there was a record-breaking convoy of about 500 eco-friendly vehicles from government departments, flying the UAE flag as they drove from Saadiyat Island to Yas Island to raise awareness about the use of clean natural gas in vehicles.
On the capital’s Corniche thousands of people gathered to watch the extravaganza of lights on Saturday and Sunday, undeterred by the chance of rain.
Streets were clogged with cars on both nights as engines roared and youngsters jumped out wearing celebratory masks, hats and feathers to spray Silly String on nearby vehicles and pedestrians.
But the clouds did put a damper on the opening ceremony of the ongoing World Parachuting Championships Mondial 2012, which was initially due to be held on Friday night.
As the skies cleared yesterday, however, the world-class jumpers were finally able to show their skills at Sky Dive Dubai’s Palm drop zone.
The Dubai Committee’s Spirit of the Union National Day celebrations, set to take place on Saturday at Dubai Festival City, also had to be postponed because of the weather. A new date is yet to be announced.
Showers did not affect the Rugby Sevens in Dubai, where spectators happily weathered the rainfall.
The country’s Rulers were equally excited about the big day and used social media technology to express it.
Sheikh Khalifa ordered 41,000 date palm trees to be planted in front of UAE schools and mosques, according to a tweet on Sunday from the Dubai Media Office Twitter account.
The President bestowed the Zayed Order on Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, “for his efforts in strengthening the country’s glorious Union”, according to another tweet.
And Dr Sheikh Sultan received the Zayed Order in recognition of his role in the fields of culture and art.
The honours were bestowed during the Khalifa Awards ceremony at Diyafa Palace in Mushrif, where Sheikh Mohammed also presented Sheikh Khalifa with two pens used to sign the declaration of the Union in 1971.
Sheikh Mohammed sent celebratory text messages to thousands of people on Saturday in anticipation of yesterday’s 41st National Day celebrations.
He congratulated the community and the President for another successful year.
“We remember our founding fathers with great pride and look forward to the future with great optimism,” the message said.