December 2nd marks the 41st National Day of the United Arab Emirates. In a culture that is so rich with tradition and customs, the celebrations seem to be (in typical UAE fashion) more about personal pomp than national pride.
Dubai police have gone so far as to ban ‘Car Parades’ (one of the most popular ways to celebrate National Day according to The National newspaper). These parades, whereby tributes to the UAE leaders and national flag are flaunted in engine-revving fashion, are really just an obnoxious display of wealth and arrogance, not to mention a dangerous one. So are these antics really how Emiratis choose to celebrate their great nation?
At first glance, yes. When frequenting the popular neighbourhoods of Dubai, such as JBR, and Abu Dhabi it would appear so. However, if you delve a little deeper and go in search of authentic national pride, it’s everywhere – even in some surprising places – whether it’s a SMS of thanks and blessings that went out to every citizen and resident of UAE from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai (I got one on both mobiles), in the shopping centres, or as I discovered, even at the zoo. I decided to venture out-of-town to Al Ain, a small city in the Abu Dhabi Emirate, and was pleasantly surprised to see a grassroots celebration in which the elders shared dance, song and even a history challenge with the children.
So while the celebration of customs and culture of the United Arab Emirates is anything but typical on National Day, it’s really rather fitting for a nation that is young, rambunctious, and ever so proud.