ABU DHABI // Celebrations for the 37th National Day will start early this year, with government departments in Dubai rolling out activities and events scheduled to run from today until Dec 4. In Dubai, a host of cultural and entertainment activities are scheduled to be held in public areas over 12 days to celebrate 2008 as the year of national identity, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai and chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, announced yesterday.
As part of National Day celebrations, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development launched a campaign urging people to fly the UAE flag. A new logo was also unveiled by Dubai's Executive Council, to commemorate the day in 1971 when the treaty for the federation was signed. School holidays are expected to run from National Day on Dec 2 to Dec 13. Eid al Adha is expected to run from Dec 8 to Dec 10.
"The National Day is a landmark occasion in the history of the UAE that reflects our glorious past, guided by a wise vision that led to our bright future today," Sheikh Hamdan said in a statement. "This future has already proved to be one of the achievements that has demonstrated the capability of our people to overcome obstacles in our march towards progress." National Day should serve as a reminder of the "unity of our people", he added.
It was Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, who designated this the year of national identity. "Anyone lacking understanding of their identity is destined to remain in obscurity, whether now or in the future," he said at the time of the announcement, the state news agency, WAM, reported. "The federal state is designed to preserve our identity, to enhance our capacities and to exercise our sovereignty. It ensures our security and stability in the Arabian Gulf, and, indeed, is a guarantee of support for our brothers in the Arab and Islamic worlds."
National Day will be marked with a speech by Sheikh Khalifa, who yesterday reiterated his call to build upon the country's political, social and cultural developments. WAM yesterday reported Sheikh Khalifa as noting in particular the progress made by the Federal National Council, since the first partial elections took place in Dec 2006, with the aim of building on the process and working towards greater political participation.
The country's developing role on the international stage was also addressed, based on a foreign policy rooted in "dialogue, openness, [and] peaceful coexistence". Sheikh Khalifa cited the Nato Parliamentary Assembly seminar on the Middle East and Global Challenges, hosted by the UAE in October, which urged greater co-operation on regional issues. In this vein, October also saw the establishment of a joint UAE-Iran committee, according to WAM.
Sheikh Khalifa highlighted the UAE's role in international humanitarian affairs, based on its status as a Muslim country, alongside the belief that the country's wealth should also benefit people in need. Noor Dubai, the charity to help eliminate preventable blindness launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was cited as an example of the humanitarian endeavours spearheaded in 2008. The work of the UAE Red Crescent Authority was also highlighted for praise.