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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Thousands to flock to 'grandest' National Day celebration ever

More than 1,500 performers will pay homage to Sheikh Zayed's historic unification of the seven emirates at massive stadium show

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Thousands of residents are set to flock to Abu Dhabi for a massive carnival of colour, music, dance and cinema as the UAE prepares for its "grandest" National Day celebrations ever.

A show nine months in the making, featuring 1,500 performers, will take over Zayed Sports City Stadium this Sunday as the country marks the 47th anniversary of the seven emirates becoming one.

More than 22,000 people are expected to pack into the stadium for This is Zayed. This is the UAE, a high-energy tribute to the UAE's Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed.

The massive team behind the show are busy putting the final touches to their performance - and they are pledging to tell the story of Sheikh Zayed's life in a way it has never been told before.

“While preparing for this show, we got a chance to discover new elements of Sheikh Zayed’s life that have not been revealed before,” said Abdulla Al Qubaisi, spokesperson of the 47th national day celebrations’ organising committee.

“We look at Sheikh Zayed as a young man, as a father and as a leader, how he traveled through life, we focus on his character, so it could serve as a guidance for future generations.”

Sheikh Zayed's inspiring journey will be mapped out with the help of a 60-by-70 metre screen and a 90 metre stage.

“It will be a marriage between theatre, projection and 3D mapping,” said Nick Levitt, a member of the show's production team.

“The story telling is the main aspect, how to tell the story of Sheikh Zayed in a big way that is authentic to the culture.”

The team have been hard at work on the show since February.

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Of the 1,500 stage performers, 70 per cent are Emiratis, while there will also be live musical performances by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from the UK, alongside 150 Emirati musicians and some from Egypt.

Support is also coming in all the way from Australia, with 39 puppets arriving in time for the show from the land Down Under.

The 18 gazelles, eight flamingos, six houbara birds, five Oryx, a desert fox, and a caracal, have been custom-made to the finest detail for the event.

The gazelle puppet has been painted to show the lines and fur of a real gazelle, with lashes glued around its eyes.

The puppets will be ridden by humans, who will move them around the stage for the performance.

“There are little stories going on between the different puppets,” said Graeme Haddon, the puppet director.

“The 42 puppeteers are all UAE residents that we have trained over the past weeks. None of them have been puppeteers before.”

Small seats have been placed on the gazelles back, with a harness to secure the puppeteers.

“They ride it wearing shoes with clips at the bottom, to buckle with those clips on the puppet’s front legs.”

The puppeteer can move the back legs of the puppet using rods that have been placed on the side.

“The training we had to do was to learn to walk like the animal; we walked them around the room for hours on end,” said Mr Haddon.

This is the third time a massive show will take place at Zayed Sports City’s stadium for National Day, with similar celebrations held in honour of the country’s 44th and 40th anniversaries.

“This will be the grandest in terms of content and quality, to mark the end of the Year of Zayed and centenary of his birth,” said Mr Al Qubaisi.

The mega event will be attended by UAE rulers, royals, foreign state guests and members of the public.

“This year we priced the tickets at Dh60 so that ticket holders can guarantee to find seats once they arrive.

“Before the tickets were free of charge and people were worried they could show up and not find enough seats.”

Tickets are available at www.uaenationalday.ae, Virgin Megastores and Ticketmaster.