Rich culture of UAE displayed at Heritage Village
ABU DHABI // From camel rides to traditional dancing, the rich culture of the UAE was celebrated in style at the Heritage Village in Abu Dhabi.
Young children clung to the backs of camels in the desert area of the Breakwater attraction yesterday, while others carrying UAE flags poked at an open campfire or got close to hooded falcons.
Bystanders captured images of customs that span thousands of years on the latest iPads and smartphones.
The activities were part of a traditional programme of events organised by Emirates Heritage Club to mark National Day.
Elsewhere in the village, a mix of Emiratis, expatriates and tourists were making their way around a traditional market, watching local women give cooking demonstrations or learning about the agricultural history of the nation.
The Emirati Shamsa Al Rumaithie, 31, from Abu Dhabi, was among those soaking up the carnival atmosphere.
"It shows all of us, nationals and non-nationals, are happy and celebrating," she said. "As a nation, when we see it like this we feel really proud that we are Emiratis.
"The reason people are celebrating with us and decorating their cars and wearing our traditional clothes and the scarves - that means that they love our country."
Denise Ozdeniz, a Briton who has lived in Abu Dhabi for 15 months and works for the Higher Colleges of Technology, liked that people were being encouraged to understand the nation's culture. "It's great that people are so proud of their heritage," said Ms Ozdeniz, 49, as she wandered around the village.
Close to the waterfront, men in local dress performed traditional Emirati songs and dances, waving sticks in time to music and singing to the beat of drums.
Women dressed in the colours of the UAE flag formed a line next to them and danced in unison.
In the background, a race with traditional wooden rowing boats was hotly contested, with the winning crew standing up in their vessel and holding the flag of the UAE proudly aloft.
The races started opposite the Tourist Club Area and ended outside the Heritage Village, where supporters watched from a viewing platform.
Others leant against the railings along parts of the shore, waving and applauding the efforts of the crews - all locals who row as a hobby.
Among the crowd was Mattar Al Junaibi who had travelled from Oman.
"Oman and the UAE are together like brothers, said Mr Al Junaibi, 25. "We have a good relationship so if they have any traditional [events] or National Day, we have to go to them. We are happy like them."
As the rowers made their way across the water, and the dancers continued to move to the beat of drums, a much more modern force took to the skies.
The UAE aerobatic team Al Fursan (the Knights) amazed the crowds with daring manoeuvres.
The aircraft flew together before one spun off through the air above the Corniche and Breakwater.
It rejoined the formation, which left a trail of smoke in the colours of the UAE flag.
The road along the Breakwater was packed with vehicles as drivers formed a celebratory procession throughout the afternoon.
Loud music pumped out from heavily decorated cars, decked out with UAE flags, as the excited occupants sprayed foam from windows.
"National Day is a nice day. Everyone here in my country is happy for my country, for my people, all together," said Salim Khalifa, an Emirati, who works in security at Emirates Heritage Club.