x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

National Day subdued in still-mourning RAK

Revellers head for other emirates out of respect for late Ruler as official 40-day mourning period continues.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // With flags still flying at half mast, the emirate of Ras al Khaimah engaged in subdued National Day observations out of respect for the late Ruler, Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed, with many travelling to other emirates for revelry.

For hundreds, the occasion was spent as national highway day. Red, green and black paint dried on the speckled pavement of the downtown RAK city area as young men with custom-painted cars vacated the city to participate in parades elsewhere.

Sheikh Saqr, who came to power in 1948, passed away on October 27 and the official 40-day mourning period to mark his death is still in effect in RAK.

"Every year should be special more and more, because every year we love our country more," said Mohammed al Mansoori, 22, a RAK resident who was having his Lexus painted in preparation for a Dubai parade. "For me, to be in this world is to be Emirati, but if someone is dead we have to respect the neighbourhood he is in. People can be happy and enjoy themselves, but they cannot make a big celebration in that neighbourhood."

Their decision left others with more room for their plans. A family in the village of Al Mahaheb took advantage of a cancelled parade to celebrate a wedding, albeit without dancing.

"This makes the wedding more special," said the 21-year-old bride, who asked not to be named, regarding the date of her marriage. Adorned in heavy gold necklaces and wearing a burgandy-and-cream thobe, she greeted a parade of women including her prospective mother-in-law, who came to offer their blessings.

"The Emirates is my mother, my everything," said Umm Mohammed, 40, the in-law in waiting. "The Emirates is more valuable than my parents."

Her sentiments were heartily echoed by Umm Abdulla, 45, the bride's mother. "Before we lived a simple life. We had no schools, no teacher. So today everyone [else] is going to Abu Dhabi to celebrate."

Other families took to the dunes around Emirates Road and picnicked in the mountains of Fujairah. Jamila Ahmed, 22, a mother from Abu Dhabi, joined five families from three emirates to enjoy a meal under the shade of an acacia tree.

Men dined on one mat, women on another, surrounded by biryani and sleeping babies. Men and children alike accessorised their kandhouras and dresses with UAE-themed hats and scarves, as well as pins bearing portraits of the sheikhs. Out of respect for the late Sheikh Saqr they did not decorate their vehicles.

"Unity is something special, especially in the Gulf," Ms Ahmed said. "There is no difference between someone from RAK or someone from Abu Dhabi. We are all Emirati. Emirates is our life and today is like a wedding. We feel that our country loves us, so we love our country."