The skies of the UAE were lit up by magnificent fireworks displays on Saturday night, as the country celebrated National Day.
In Abu Dhabi, a spectacular display took place over the Yas Marina circuit on Yas Island, while in Dubai, crowds gathered to see the skies glittering at Dubai Festival City.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai were also out and attended the official celebration of the 46th National Day on Saturday evening in Abu Dhabi which was held under the theme 'Here is the Future'.
Car parades on Yas, a cycle from Ajman to Louvre Abu Dhabi and thousands throng JBR - people across the UAE came out in droves on Saturday to celebrate National Day.
Earlier in the day, the tradition of drivers revving luxury engines, burning tires and filling the air with exhaust smoke played out under the spotlights of Yas Marina Circuit.
Hundreds of families filled the stands to cheer professional drivers as they skidded and spun across the famous Formula 1 track, leaving behind long trails of white smoke and staining the lanes with black swirls. The more smoke produced, the louder the cheers from fans, many of whom were young children dressed in national colours or military fatigue.
“It was excellent,” said Christopher Guyot, a French national who attended with his Filipina wife Mary Jane and two-year-old son, Jack. Mr Guyot said he has experienced the “river of burning cars” that generally fills the Corniche each year, but prefers the professionally staged demonstration.
“It is very nice, it is very well-organised, beautiful. It’s safer,” said Mr Guyot. “What they are doing is spot-on. I feel like the celebration is for all of us, we feel part of it.”
The free festivities at Yas Marina Circuit also included musical entertainment, face paintings, bouncy castles and children’s workshops and games that attracted hundreds of young, flag-waving families.
Earlier in the day, a group of professional cyclists wearing red, green, white and black jerseys commemorated UAE National Day by peddling from Ajman to Abu Dhabi.
The idea was to cycle from one of the country’s oldest museums, the Ajman Museum, to the newest, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, said Faisal Al Nuami, the Emirati who organised the 170-kilometre ride.
“When I heard His Highnesses Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed [Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces] and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid [Vice President and Ruler of Dubai] saying this is a gift from the UAE to the whole world ... that touched my heart,” Mr Al Nuaimi said of Louvre Abu Dhabi.
In honour of this, he organised the National Day journey with his The Seven Cyclists group, calling the ride "oldest to newest". After announcing his plans on social media, Mr Al Nuaimi said hundreds of people were interested in joining the team, but for logistical reasons, he had to limit the number of escorted riders to 18.
Ride captain Niel Copeland called the experience “amazing".
“We are all keen cyclists and we wanted to do something in honour of UAE National Day,” said Mr Copeland, 43. “There have been some amazing moments. Coming past the main flag in Sharjah – that was a fantastic thing to do on National Day. That was really quite special. And then we were coming down the road by the Burj Khalifa just as the sun was starting to come up – so you had this beautiful light coming up over Business Bay and Sheikh Zayed Road.”
Mr Al Nuaimi said the ride was also an opportunity to encourage the public to explore the country and appreciate all that it has to offer.
“I just want to tell people, the UAE is beautiful and you won’t see how beautiful it is while you are sitting home watching the TVs or reading the newspapers or listening to the radios,” said Mr Al Nuaimi. “You’ve got to go, move, and I would encourage them to go cycling.”
The cyclists were among thousands of people who chose to celebrate National Day at one of the UAE’s newest cultural gems. More than 100 people were queued up outside Louvre Abu Dhabi just after noon waiting to enter the building, while inside the galleries and open spaces were buzzing with patrons.
A special tour of Emirati pieces was being offered in honour of National Day, and an architectural tour focused on the Emirati elements that inspired the building’s design. Emirati-themed workshops were organised by the Children’s Museum.
Emirati Ahmed Salem attended Louvre Abu Dhabi with his wife Irina Stolyarova and their visitor from South Korea, Minchul Kim.
“We want to show him the celebrations, how we do it,” Mr Salem said of his international guest. “And the Louvre just opened up, so we thought it was a must, we must come here to see it.”
Patrons were handed UAE flags and many visitors dressed up in the national colours.
“On this day, you see all this love,” said Mr Salem. “Everybody, local or not local, tourists, they are in the streets celebrating the National Day.”
As a celebration of the progress of the UAE, few weekends are celebrated with the same unity as National Day in Dubai.
With people living together from scores of different nationalities and faiths, it is the one day where residents have the same cause for celebration.
Thousands of people poured into Jumeirah Beach Residences on Saturday to enjoy the occasion, with cars and motorbikes decked out in the colours of the UAE flag, as many were making the most of the extra-long weekend.
Live performances were entertaining families visiting JBR, with most visitors hanging around to keep their spot for the spectacular fireworks display.
Chafik Tahri, 32 from France, works for Dubai Airports and was enjoying the long weekend off with friends.
“I’ve been in Dubai for six years, but I feel very patriotic towards the UAE,” he said.
“National Day is special as it brings everyone together, no matter where they come from.
“People here are proud to say they live in the UAE, and Dubai is very accepting. Emiratis don’t care where we are from, they accept us all the same.
“One of the best things about living here is mixing with people from all over the world who have the same spirit.”
Sanjeev Dixit is a writer and director of Amazing Theatre, a performance group that was telling the story of Dubai with actors on stage at JBR.
“National Day ties in perfectly with our show, as we try to use the multi-cultural aspect of Dubai alongside the traditional heritage of the country to try and educate people in an interesting way about the UAE,” he said.
“The show has been written with Brian Wilkie, who has been a resident of Dubai for 40 years, and like many of us who now consider it as home, or at least a second home.
“Everyone is proud to say they live here, and the show tries to replicate that feeling if belonging and inclusiveness of the city.”
The show uses themes from as far back as the 1800s to show how life has changed in the UAE. Actors tell the story of the country, from peal fishing and trade, to the Bedouins and towards the modern cities the UAE has become famous for.
There is also a chapter of performance to teach the audience a few simple lines of Arabic.
“People living here are proud of the country and what It stands for, and we are all happy to celebrate the success of the UAE together,” said Abbas Kumar, from Pakistan.
“Like many of my friends, I have come here to start a new life, and National Day helps me to feel part of the country.”