x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Confetti, fireworks and silly string fill the air as Dubai marks National Day

A fireworks display at the Burj Al Arab lasted for about an hour and entertained the thousands who gathered to celebrate National Day.

Fireworks light up the Burj Al Arab in Dubai as the nation celebrates its 42nd National Day.Sarah Dea/The National
Fireworks light up the Burj Al Arab in Dubai as the nation celebrates its 42nd National Day.Sarah Dea/The National

DUBAI // It was always going to be a recipe for a good party: wildly decorated cars, vuvuzelas and hundreds upon hundreds of cans of silly string.

Young Emiratis descended upon Jumeirah Beach Road in their thousands last night, wearing Afro wigs in the UAE’s colours, madly waving flags from open sun roofs, or standing on the curb covering every passing vehicle in fake snow.

“Every car needs to have string or snow,” said Abdullah Al Hamid, 16, from the UAE, who was standing outside a petrol station with a group of friends armed with spray cans and super soakers.

“If they don’t have string it means they’re not happy.”

The street was covered in confetti as revellers sat on roofs, and bonnets of cars, as the sound of Khaleeji music and car horns filled the air.

The highlight of the evening was a huge fireworks show at the Burj Al Arab. The show, which started shortly after 8.30pm with a colourful aerobatics display, involved fireworks shooting from the side of the luxury hotel.

On several occasions the sky was painted with red, white and green fireworks, while a sophisticated light show transformed the hotel into a moving canvas.

“It’s beautiful,” said Mona Al Khatib, 23, an Emirati student from Sharjah. “It’s the perfect end to wonderful National Day celebrations.”

Sanjay Kapoor, 37 from India, was at the beach with his family. “We knew the traffic was going to be very busy tonight, but we thought it was worth it to see such a spectacle,” he said.

“The children love fireworks and the best fireworks are always on National Day. We have been living here for 13 years now, and it is like a second home.

“We wanted to celebrate this important day with the rest of the country.”

The fireworks went on for roughly half an hour, and were followed by cheering and clapping from the hundreds who gathered on the beach.

While National Day celebrations were relatively subdued on the streets during the daytime, even in hot spots like Jumeirah Beach Road, by about 7pm the roads were gridlocked as hundreds of bedecked cars hooted their horns and passengers blew vuvuzelas through open sunroofs or car windows.

Kristy Jacobs, 52 from the UK, was staying at the Madinat with her husband and had come to take pictures on the streets.

“It’s like the jubilee, or something,” she said. “I’ve never seen so many people making so much noise just because they want to be patriotic.”

Omar Al Balooshi, 33, an Emirati from Al Barsha, was driving a Toyota Corolla that was covered entirely with bright UAE flags and pictures of Sheikh Zayed. On the side were love hearts.

He said the car is an old one, which he keeps in a garage most of the year and brings out only for National Day.

“It would be too much to clean the car every year and redecorate it again,” he said. “It’s an old car, so I save it just for National Day.

“The police would stop me if I drove it every day. I don’t want to paint it again, because I like the design.”

In Mercato Mall, on Jumeirah Beach Road, dozens of Emirati families visited a display of culture that involved weaving bamboo sculptures and traditional female singing.

Ahmed Khaliq, from Jumeirah, was visiting the mall with his wife and two children. His son, Mohammed, was wearing a kandura that had 42 sewn into the top-left breast pocket, and his daughter was wearing a colourful dress with a huge Sheikh Khalifa mural as an oversized belt buckle.

“My children wanted to celebrate National Day, so my wife has been helping them with their clothes for the past week,” he said. “They have been very excited for a few months.

“This is a very special day for Emiratis, where we celebrate 42 years of our country’s history. It’s the biggest day of the year.”

On the Walk, at Jumeirah Beach Residences, a steady stream of cars drove past, becoming increasingly elaborate in their decoration as the day wore on. Dozens of tourists stopped to take pictures of the cars.

“It’s very different from how we celebrate our national day,” said Gerard Courant, 36, from France, who was on holiday with his wife and three children.

“I didn’t know it was any special occasion when we booked flights, but I’m glad we saw this. We came to Dubai to see something different, and this is certainly something different.”

Li Heping, a 42-year-old Chinese tourist, was taking pictures with his family of a group of Emiratis hanging out of the sun roof waving flags.

“It’s very funny,” he said. “I don’t know what they are celebrating, but they look very happy.”

A highlight of the afternoon at the Walk was when the Red Arrows, the British aerobatic display team from the Royal Air Force, gave a special National Day performance at the Skydive Dubai, near the Marina.

“It’s very impressive,” said Abdul Kareem, 21, from the UAE. “They keep looking like they are going to crash.

“Its a wonderful thing to have on our National Day.”