x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Day of history for a proud nation

Expatriates join Emiratis to celebrate country's 39th birthday as towns and cities across the UAE turn red, white, black and green.

Dazzling: people enjoy the light, music and fireworks at Burj Khalifa during the celebration of the 39th National Day yesterday. Jaime Puebla / The National
Dazzling: people enjoy the light, music and fireworks at Burj Khalifa during the celebration of the 39th National Day yesterday. Jaime Puebla / The National

DUBAI // National Day celebrations kicked off last night in Dubai with fireworks, music and storytelling of how the nation was formed 39 years ago.

Last night, hundreds of people gathered for the Kullunna Khalifa event, meaning "we are all Khalifa".

Organised by the Dubai Committee for National Day Celebrations, the event - dedicated to Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the President of the UAE - was held at Burj Park at the foot of the world's tallest building, and centred around a grandfather telling his grandchildren the story of how the nation was formed.

Hundreds of Emiratis and expatriates, many with the UAE flag draped around their necks, gathered in front of a large stage set up in the park adjacent to the Burj Khalifa for the Kullunna Khalifa event.

Among the crowd was Nasser Hamoud, a school social worker who was accompanying a group of his students to the event.

Mr Hamoud was born in the Dubai neighbourhood of Shindagha 49 years ago, 10 years before the country was formed.

"All the emirates were alone 39 years ago," he said. "Sheikh Zayed collected all of the emirates and made something very special and good for the UAE."

Zahra al Hashemi, 30, travelled from her home in Sharjah to attend the event.

"Inside my heart, I am with all the people in the UAE. All the people are in one hand," she said. "It is nice for everyone to be together."

Ms al Hashemi's nephew, Abdullah, 14, said National Day makes him think about his country's history.

"I think about what out grandfathers did and how they lived. It was a hard life, but they made this for us, Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid," he said.

Jumi Farooq, a 15-year-old Indian who has lived in the UAE for eight years, was also in the crowd.

"India is our home, but in some ways we feel like the UAE is home too," she said, shortly before the event began with images of Dubai landmarks projected on large screens.

Old footage including of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, the founding father of the UAE, and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed, the formrr Ruler of Dubai, followed along with images of the country as it began to take shape.

An actor, seated on the stage with a boy and a girl playing his grandchildren, narrated the story of how the country was formed.

The storytelling was interspersed with video clips of pre-recorded comments from public figures, including Dubai Police Chief Lt Gen Dahi Kalfan Tamim, and the Minister of Social Affairs Mariam Al Roumi, on a variety of topics, from security to special needs.

The event also featured songs dedicated to Sheikh Khalifa, including an operatic piece sung by Sarah al Quwani, an Emirati soprano.

Schoolchildren waving UAE flags and employees from government departments were among those who also took to the stage during the hour-long event.

Towards the end of the event, two children presented Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, with a box.

According to organisers, inside was an iPad loaded with photos, video footage and interviews with Emiratis and expatriates, which will be given to Sheikh Khalifa on the occasion of National Day.

The event ended with a spectacular fireworks display.

"I feel very proud about my country, it's past, now and what will happen in the future," said Khaled al Kathari, 29, from Abu Dhabi, as the crowds dispersed.

zconstantine@thenational.ae