x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Hundreds flock to Downtown Dubai for National Day parade

People gathered in Downtown Dubai for the parade of floats, cars and camels as the UAE celebrates National Day.

DUBAI // Hundreds of Emiratis and expatriates thronged the Emaar Boulevard yesterday afternoon to join the Downtown Dubai Parade for National Day.

Sunny skies and the fine weather spurred the crowd's excitement as international and traditional floats and school bands danced and sang their way through the two-hour parade, now in its second year.

The audience, many of whom had painted their faces in the UAE's colours, enthusiastically waved flags and cheered. A melting pot of more than 200 nationalities, people from many different backgrounds showed up in full force.

Bikers from the Black Eagles motorcycle club started the parade, noisily revving their Harley-Davidsons on the boulevard that was cordoned off from traffic for the day.

They were followed by Emiratis driving Porches in the colours of the flag, and other luxury cars in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa.

Flagbearers on horseback, an Emirati band, representatives of the Armed Forces, firefighters, hospital paramedics, men and women in local dress and special-needs children in wheelchairs all joined the parade.

Several fire engines and ambulances switched on their sirens and honked their way along the route.

A cardboard cutout of the Dubai Metro, complete with the emirate's famous landmarks such as the Burj Al Arab, also made an appearance.

Several camels, so synonymous with the country's culture, were led along the route.

Aliaa Abouali, an Egyptian expatriate who took her two children to watch the parade, said: "I am here to know what the parade is about. This is my first parade. My four-year-old is enjoying herself a lot."

Amina El Sawaf, another Egyptian expatriate, who has lived in Dubai for the past two years said: "It's nice to take part and enjoy the UAE's National Day."

The Emirati Gaith Al Najjar, 26, a Dubai airport employee, said watching the event made him extremely proud of his country's achievements.

Mr Al Najjar, who decorated his car with UAE flags, said he was keen to watch the entire parade and would end the day by catching a fountain show at the Dubai Mall.

"I liked the Filipino school's band especially because they played great music," he said.

Mona Al Sayegh, another Emirati, came to watch the event with her three-year-old daughter and husband.

"It's nice to see different nationalities, different companies take part," she said. "It feels like a community national parade. I liked the men on stilts in the national colours."

She said she generally avoided parades because they were too full of cars. "This is the first event I felt would be a family parade and pedestrian-friendly, with cars on one side."

While many people walked with the floats, some preferred to watch from the sidelines, seated in cafes along the route while security officers and local authorities ushered the parade through the colourful 2-kilometre route.

pkannan@thenational.ae