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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Unfurling the flag in one of Abu Dhabi's oldest districts

Mohammed Noor Al Khoury prepares for the patriotic season a month before his neighbours

Mohammed Noor Al Khoori has flown the flag on his home every year since the Union was formed. Photo by Reem Mohammed / The National
Mohammed Noor Al Khoori has flown the flag on his home every year since the Union was formed. Photo by Reem Mohammed / The National

In the old Bur Hoaz neighbourhood of central Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Noor Al Khoury is always the first to raise the flag above his house.

His two-storey flag was unfurled in October, a week before Flag Day and a full month before his neighbours will begin to think about National Day celebrations on December 2.

“We’ve always done this,” says Mr Al Khoury, 78, when asked about Flag Day, which will be marked on Thursday.

“Since the establishment of this country, I have always hung the flag.”

Flag Day has more recent origins.

Celebrations began in 2013 after Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, called for a national Flag Day on November 3, to mark the accession of Sheikh Khalifa as president.

Even draping multi-storey flags from rooftops is a new tradition, sparked during celebrations for the country’s 40th anniversary in 2011 by a young Emirati, Hasan Al Mazrouei, who launched the Twitter campaign "Fog Baitna Alam", or 'A Flag Above Our House'.

Of course, Mr Al Khoury has always been ahead of his time. He says his driving school, Al Nasr Driving, was the capital’s first when he opened it 42 years ago. He is still a master at the wheel. “I can drive a trailer,” he says.

“I have great vision. Look at how old I am and I don’t wear glasses. Even my daughter, she wears glasses.”

It is not just the transition to modernity that brought Mr Al Khoury profit, but the symbol of a modern country - the flag itself.

Mr Al Khoury and his brother, Abdullatif, opened the One Dirham Shop together 18 years ago and sell “five or six thousand” flags for occasions like National Day.

It is one of the many businesses he has run in his lifetime, first as a grocer in Madinat Zayed, where he was raised, and later as trader in Al Ain.

“People didn’t work for just one company like nowadays,” says Mr Al Khoury.

Seven flags hang from the walls and gates of house of Mr Al Khoury, drawing attention to its lush garden and his pet chickens, which roam free but know never to cross the road. In this house, built on land to his family given by the government 32 years ago, Mr Al Khoury and his wife have raised 13 children.

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Read more:

Raise the UAE flag with dignity or risk fines and jail time, say officials

Ten facts about the UAE flag ahead of Flag Day celebrations

Labour of love: Emirati grandmother hand stitches UAE flags to show her patriotism

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Elsewhere in Abu Dhabi, companies and schools were preparing for Flag Day events, which mark an early the start of National Day celebrations.

“Today it’s starting,” says Abdulaziz Diaf, the manager of Chocolate Boutique. His sweet shop is one of several trying to capitalise on Flag Day. Three-kilogram platters of chocolates wrapped in the colours of the UAE flag are selling slowly but the season has just begun.

At Technical Scissors, one of the largest national tailoring companies for military uniforms, Flag Day starts a lucrative month as dozens of requests for children’s military customs are made every day.

As for flags, their order for the patriotic season will arrive on Flag Day itself, with 550 pieces of four by two metre flags, retailing for a total of Dh30,250.