ABU DHABI // Celebrations to mark National Day are to begin tonight with artistic and cultural events punctuated by three nights of fireworks. And today, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, marked the occasion with an address to the nation, celebrating the achievements of the country, and highlighting the challenges ahead. In the capital, Al Ain and Al Gharbia, the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach), together with schools, colleges and other groups, have organised poetry recitals, camel displays, traditional dancing and games, free concerts by Arab pop stars and a musical, among many other events, to mark the holiday.
"Dec 2 has brought many changes that the people of the UAE today, after 37 years of progress, should be proud of," said Mohammed Khalaf al Mazrouei, the director general of Adach. "Our expectations are great and our level of ambition equals our love for our country and culture." Zayed and the Dream, a musical directed, produced and performed by Lebanon's Caracalla Dance Theatre, recounting the story of Sheikh Zayed, the late founder of the UAE, will be performed at the National Theatre in the capital on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
In Al Ain, Adach has timed the official opening of the Jahili Fort with celebrations on Wednesday. The fort, which is intended to help preserve the area's local history and cultural values, will also house a permanent exhibit on Wilfred Thesiger, a British explorer known for his writings about the Empty Quarter and the Bedouins. In Al Gharbia, people with special needs will display their traditional handicrafts at the Ghayathi Humanitarian Centre, which will also host recitals by poets, as well as henna drawing and traditional cooking.
The Emirates Heritage Club began celebrating National Day today with the launch of its Etihad Festival in Abu Dhabi. Its line-up of events is to continue until Dec 20, including a sailing race in which more than 1,000 sailors from around the world will compete. This year, with Arafat Day and Eid Al Adha following close on the heels of National Day, all federal ministries, departments and entities will remain closed from Tuesday until Dec 11. Watch for more events in The National's National Day supplement, to be published tomorrow.