x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

UAE National Day: Paint my ride with pride

Ras Al Khaimah has a reputation for being the go-to emirate when it comes to decking up your cars, especially during the National Day holiday season.

Elias paints a car with the UAE's national flag colours as residents in Ras al Khaimah deck up their cars ahead of the celebrations. Sammy Dallal / The National
Elias paints a car with the UAE's national flag colours as residents in Ras al Khaimah deck up their cars ahead of the celebrations. Sammy Dallal / The National

RAS AL KHAIMAH // The emirate has a well-earned reputation for being the place to go if you want to decorate your car with images of the Rulers, flags and patriotic quotations.

Motorists from across the country visit RAK artists to have their vehicles customised with everything from portraits of President Sheikh Khalifa to the colours of the flag in honour of National Day.

This year, the number 42 has also been popular.

Khamis Al Shehi, 35, who lives in RAK, was having his car painted on Sunday in an area known for its artists.

“It’s a time to celebrate, like Eid. I’m happy, I’m proud,” he said.

Celebrations in the emirate have been going on for several weeks.

Tribes in coastal and mountain villages have been decorating the streets for several months and painting flags to hang from the mountains.

“We’ve been celebrating for a month with family,” said Mr Al Shehi who, like thousands of others in RAK, will be celebrating at the Corniche on December 2.

Car decorations have been toned down in other emirates on police orders. But here in RAK, for many artisans, decorating cars has become a staple business.

Mohib Ali has a team of painters and over the past three days they have painted about 300 cars. On Sunday night Mr Ali was expecting dozens more customers.

Prices start from Dh400 and rise to Dh1,000 depending on the detail required.

“We have people come from all over the emirates – from Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman,” he said. “The Dubai Expo 2020 symbol has become very popular this year but Sheikh Zayed is still the most popular.”

It takes an average of two to three hours to decorate each vehicle.

His customer, Mr Al Shehi, chose to paint the faces of President Sheikh Khalifa and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, on the sides of his car, along with the number 42 and the flag.

Mr Al Shehi said National Day was a time for unity.

“We are one country and it’s a time to feel that seven emirates become one. As Mohammed bin Zayed said, ‘We are one house, the same house,’.”

He liked those words so much, he decided to have them printed on his car.

“It’s a special time,” said Hassan Ali, another Emirati from RAK. He has been celebrating for some time and said National Day was a long celebration in patriotic RAK.

For the two days of “big celebration” he planned to spend his time at the Corniche with his brightly painted vehicle. A tribute to Sheikh Zayed is the main artistic feature on his car.

“All the emirates are together as one now,” he said. “It brings everyone together. At this time, we’re not from one emirate or another, we are all just as one.”

Zafar Ali, from the Swat Valley, has been in RAK painting cars for 20 years.

The artisan is proud that his trade, inspired by the regional art style from Pakistan known as Patan, famous for its painted trucks, has become a national treasure in the emirate. Tahmee Ullah, from Peshawar, has also been in RAK for 10 years.

Both said National Day was the busiest time for them but was a time when they felt like part of the community, sharing in the national joy.

“People come to us from all over,” he said. “It’s a very good time to do our job. We are very busy and very proud to show our skills. In Pakistan we paint the trucks. Here, we do this.”