x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

National Day in Al Ain: Superstar surprise

Thousands attend celebrations at Al Ain Heritage Village as city centre comes to a standstill.

A dancer performs at the Al Ain Heritage Village during the National Day celebrations.
A dancer performs at the Al Ain Heritage Village during the National Day celebrations.

More than 5,000 people turned out for celebrations at Al Ain Heritage Village, while others descended on the city centre, bringing traffic to a virtual standstill. There was pushing and shoving as people crowded to get on to the grandstand at the Heritage Village, which was packed for the various performances. Scores of police officers were busy on Khalifa bin Zayed Street and the surrounding downtown district to keep traffic moving.

Young men and children were leaning out of cars waving Emirati flags and scarves, some donning khandouras in the colours of the flag. "We are seeing a number of moving violations but none are dangerous enough to warrant a citation," said one police officer who asked that he not be named. "Today our nation is celebrating, so I wouldn't feel right giving someone a ticket unless he really deserved it. You can say I am being lenient today."

At the top and bottom of Jebel Hafeet, the UAE's second highest mountain, young men gathered to show their cars adorned with red, white, black and green heart-shaped stickers and portraits of the nation's leaders. The evening festivities included laser works, dancing water fountains and acrobatics, some on horseback, and martial arts displays featuring the Phoenix Fire Dancers. There were several cartoon characters performing at the children's stage, and carnival thrill rides were enjoyed by men, women and children alike.

More traditional performances included bedouin dances and musicians. Abdulwahab Maher, 26, an off-duty Egyptian security guard who had attended last year's celebrations in Abu Dhabi, was in the Al Ain grandstand this year. "This is beyond anything I imagined it would be," Mr Maher said. "I have never seen such performances, not even back in Egypt. I come from a farming town called Mahala where we don't have things like this.

"This was better than what Abu Dhabi did last year. It's all been astonishing. Everyone in the crowd is having a great time. Look at them." At around 8pm, as the grandstand began to clear, one of several fireworks displays signalled the end of the performances. Then an announcer broadcast the evening's biggest surprise: a concert by the popular singer Nancy Ajram. ealghalib@thenational.ae