x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

National Day brings outpouring of pride

Emiratis throughout the UAE took to the streets in a public outpouring of pride in their nation for National Day.

A car is decorated in a shop on Al Salam Street for the car parade on the Corniche during the 37th National Day in Abu Dhabi, on Dec 1 2008.
A car is decorated in a shop on Al Salam Street for the car parade on the Corniche during the 37th National Day in Abu Dhabi, on Dec 1 2008.

ABU DHABI // Thousands of motorists today showed their national pride by decking out their vehicles in the colours of the UAE flag. In Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the northern emirates, groups of young men draped flags on their 4x4s and sports cars and plastered them with stickers of the nation's rulers. "We do this because we love the UAE," said Zaid Ismail, 16, from Palestine, as he decorated his father's Jeep 4x4 with small flags and ribbons.

In Abu Dhabi, the display of pride was best seen on the Corniche, where the roads were jammed with vehicles blaring horns and playing loud music. "This is the place where we go to see other people," said Nasr al Bunainain. Standing next to his Nissan Patrol 4x4, which had been covered in red, white and green stars, the Emirati said he would start cruising about 8pm and would not stop until 5am. Taking to the streets in vehicles to celebrate major events and victories, such as the UAE's under-19 Asia Football Championship win last month, has become a tradition throughout the country. But no day can match National Day for the elaborate decorations residents place on their cars.

In Dubai, groups of vehicles full of young men met in car parks and, as the evening went on, the roads became awash with colourfully decorated vehicles. In Ras al Khaimah, where Emiratis form the majority, the city shuts down and the streets light up and thousands of people celebrate with a drive along the Corniche. Some larger vehicles were filled with three generations of family. Teenagers and men waved toy guns, flags and teddy bears from sunroofs and windows while inside, women wore national scarves flung around their abayas, and babies were wrapped in the UAE flag.

Sultan al Shehhi, who works at the Dubai airport, spent more than Dh2,000 decorating his white 4x4. Photos of sheikhs adorned the windows, and the name of his tribe, al Shehhi, was written across the top of his windscreen, surrounded by red, green and white stars. A falcon emblem adorned the bonnet. Inside the vehicle he carried confetti to throw and a horn to sound. "I am Emirati, my heritage is Emirati, this is why I love my country so much," he said.

In Abu Dhabi, Sami Mohammed was proud to say that his age also matched that of his country. He had spray-painted the number 37 all over his car but said he would be avoiding the Corniche, where he said there were "too many problems". Those problems included large traffic jams and people smoking their tyres and making erratic lane changes. Children sat on the roofs of some cars, their feet dangling through the sunroof. Some hung out the vehicle's windows, waving flags.

"There are some people who are coming not for fun or to be happy, they are coming just for making accidents," Mr Bunainain said. Daniel John Plancke, an Australian who is an operations manager with Emirates Precision Metal Industries, said that he was impressed by the outpouring of pride. "They have a passion about their country that a lot of other places don't have that. "Obviously, they love their Sheikhs, otherwise they wouldn't have pictures of them all over their cars.

"I think it is a really raw and undiluted passion for their country." mchung@thenational.ae