x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Placards, poetry, pageantry and pride

The UAE kicks off its 37th birthday celebrations with lavish events that will reach their climax tonight with a potentially record-breaking firework display.

Cadets from the Dubai Police Academy march on Jumeirah Beach Road in Dubai yesterday.
Cadets from the Dubai Police Academy march on Jumeirah Beach Road in Dubai yesterday.

ABU DHABI and DUBAI // The UAE kicked off its 37th birthday celebrations yesterday with lavish events that will reach their climax tonight with a potentially record-breaking firework display. In Dubai yesterday afternoon, thousands of people dressed in the national colours, waving UAE flags and carrying placards declaring their love of the country embraced the patriotic fervour and gathered on Jumeirah Beach Road for a parade from the Jumeirah Centre to Union Square.

Abu Dhabi simultaneously began its celebrations with poetry recitals and a student theatre performance. Young Emiratis cheered and sang enthusiastically as people of all ages joined in the Dubai parade. The marchers included members of the Dubai Executive Council, heads of government departments, civil servants, professionals and students, among others. Many thousands of people cheered them on, clapping and waving as they went by.

"We are all here to cheer for our country and celebrate," said a young man rushing to join a group of Emiratis. The marchers waved flags, beat drums and blew horns and other musical instruments. Many had painted their clothes in the national colours and some had painted their hair and faces with the red, green, white and black of the UAE flag. Singing schoolchildren in fancy dress waved to the crowd. Other marchers waved big and small flags all the way to Union House.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, also took part in the parade. He addressed the crowd and signed a giant flag that many of the marchers also signed. Paragliders whose aircraft were adorned with UAE flags circled overhead, drawing cheers from the crowds. Celebrations continued late into the evening before marchers packed into their cars, some draped with huge national flags, and drove slowly along Jumeirah Beach Road, rhythmically honking their horns, revving their engines and cheering.

Senior citizens joined the parade thanks to the Community Development Authority, which organised a double-decker bus for them and for people with special needs. The Dubai Autism Center and the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority also began their National Day celebrations a day early when more than 40 students sang patriotic songs for parents and guests at the autism centre. The centre also displayed paintings and traditional handicrafts, and staged poetry recitals. Guests were treated to traditional dishes.

Traditional dances will be a highlight of the Dubai celebrations. Dancers rehearsed at Deira City Centre for performances tonight, tomorrow and Thursday evenings that will showcase the UAE's heritage. They will perform three forms of traditional dance to symbolise the diversity and unity of the seven emirates: Al Dan, Liwa and Al Modeema dance. Each show will last 30 minutes, while a falcon show is scheduled during the breaks.

"The spirit of this togetherness and the success of the UAE will reverberate throughout the mall from our decor to the festivities lined up," said Fuad al Najjar, vice president at Deira City Centre. The traditional Liwa dance is performed to a background of light drumbeats with thin sticks during which poetry themed on victory, happiness and love is recited. Al Dan song and dance involves two rows of men and women. Drummers approach them, until a dancer comes forward to perform a solo. The drummers then beat their drums, chasing the soloist until he or she returns to his place.

Al Modeema dance is based on a much faster rhythm as a group sits in a big circle singing traditional songs. Celebrations in Abu Dhabi began at the Fatima College of Health Sciences with male and female students reciting poetry and presenting a short play for parents, staff and dignitaries. Throughout the country, in schools, colleges and shopping centres, at city landmarks and museums, a multitude of festivities, events and celebrations will be held over the coming days and weeks to mark the anniversary.

Meanwhile, a firework display scheduled for tonight will attempt to shatter the record for the world's largest and most elaborate show. People will be able to watch the pyrotechnics all along the Corniche and across the Emirates Palace Marina. The Etihad Festival organised by the Emirates Heritage Club, which will be held at several locations across the capital, will feature plays, boat racing, poetry recitals and photography exhibitions until Dec 20.

Concerts, musicals and operas will be performed in all seven emirates. The Ministry of Labour has declared today an official holiday for both the private and public sectors. Malls, shopping centres and shops will be closed today to mark the occasion. Federal ministries and departments will close until Dec 11 to mark both National Day and Eid Al Adha. pmenon@thenational.ae hkhalaf@thenational.ae