UAE National Day
Fireworks, flags, parades and more anniversary fun 1 Comments
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You may have noticed the festive lights appearing all over town the past few weeks, along with posters, flags and even more pictures than usual of the United Arab Emirates’ rulers past and present. The reason? The UAE hits the big four-oh on December 2 of course.
While for some nations, 40 years passes in the blink of an eye, for the UAE, this relatively short period of time has seen the coming together of a loose collection of nomadic tribes develop into a prosperous and fast-developing nation. It has become a hub for trade and travel, a dependably stable country in an often turbulent region and a vital bridge between Eastern and Western customs. No small acheivement indeed. And of course, as the proud capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi has as much, if not more, to celebrate.
Rapid development over the past four decades has been one of of the capital’s most defining characteristics. It’s hard to believe that not so long ago the city was little more than a settlement, with the inhabitants depending on fishing, farming and the pearl industry for a living. The formal union of the emirates on December 2, 1971 – the spirit of which is being celebrated this week – was a turning point in the region's fortunes and since then both the UAE and its capital have gone from strength to strength.
Abu Dhabi began to change at an incredible rate, with infrastructure, housing and leisure facilities springing up swiftly to make it the hub of activity it is now.
Today the capital hosts world-class sporting, art, music and film events, has easily one of the most beautiful buildings in the world on its soil – the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – and has developed a whole host of fabulous galleries, hotels, restaurants, parks and beaches. (It's even got it's very own weekly Time Out magazine!) It's no wonder that Abu Dhabi is now a place that expatriates from all over the world choose to call home.
We can't wait to see what the next forty years will mean for Abu Dhabi. Plans to make Saadiyat Island an international art destination with the Louvre and Guggenheim have culture vultures salivating, while the government's ambitions to grow the population and develop lesser-known regions of the emirate will make an enormous impact. And after that – who knows?
So it’s official, the whole country has plenty to be excited about this week (and no, we don't just mean getting Thursday off). Everything from parades to photography exhibitions are being held in celebration of the UAE's 40th birthday, so get out there and enjoy yourselves!
Join in the Corniche parade
Keep your eyes peeled for what might at first appear to be an invasion of Hell’s Angels, but is actually a celebratory motorbike parade – 200 will zoom across the city from Yas Island to the Corniche. Then everyone with a set of wheels is invited to take part in the annual vehicle parade. You know the drill! Corniche Road is transformed into a carnival with flag-waving, painted faces, music and cars dressed up in silly string, paint, foam, portraits of influential UAE figures and even – we’ve seen these with our own eyes – newly installed TV screens showing pictures of the Emirates.
December 1, Motorbikes 2pm-5pm, Vehicles 5pm-1am.
Gasp at the fireworks
If there’s one thing Abu Dhabi knows how to do well – it’s a fireworks display. Last year’s amazing display is set to be topped this year by three consecutive evenings of colourful explosions. Be prepared for some serious neck ache after all that sky gazing.
Three night display, November 30 – December 2, around 8.30pm onwards.
See historical exhibitions
Hilton's photography exhibition
Drop by the Hilton's lobby to see a photo exhibition that highlights the opening of the hotel in 1973 and the development of Abu Dhabi over the last 40 years. There will also be a Bedouin tent with UAE music for visitors to experience, and everyone will be greeted upon arrival with traditional Arabic coffee and dates.
December 2, throughout the day, Hilton Abu Dhabi (02 681 1900).
The Roots of Success, celebrating 40 years of achievements
Palestinian photographer Ahmed Junaidi is exhibiting his collection of rare and historical photographs of Abu Dhabi at Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana. Called ‘The Roots of Success’, Junaidi’s pictures date back to when he first came to Abu Dhabi in 1968 and there were no high buildings or vast developments. Since then he has documented everyday UAE life through scenes showing the Bedouin lifestyle, fishermen, falconry, camel racing and more.
Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana with Swiss Art Gate (02 657 0000).
The UAE Experience Pavilion
The UAE Pavilion, originally built for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, has been brought back to its permanent home in the UAE. The exhibition explores themes from the UAE’s past, present and future, including many previously unseen artefacts and photographs.
UAE Pavilion, Sadiyaat Island, adjacent to Manarat Al Sadiyaat. Open until December 20, noon-10pm.
Watch traditional horsemanship
Forty UAE nationals, both male and female, will ride horses round Yas Marina Circuit wearing customised dress and carrying UAE flags. There will also be show jumping competitions at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club and an endurance horse race for women at the ADEC Emirates International Endurance Village over the National Day weekend.
Horse Riders Parade December 1, 5pm-12pm, Yas Circuit Parade (02 659 9800).
Attend the official ceremony
This ceremony will include artistic operettas that reflect the achievements of the UAE over the past 40 years, along with some dramatic visual effects. Some of the UAE’s leaders and heads of state are expected to be present.
December 2, 5pm-7.30pm, Zayed Sports City Stadium (02 403 4200).
See the Grand Mosque illuminated
The Grand Mosque is pretty dazzling as it is, but over the next few days this most iconic of buildings is going to be illuminated with 3D projections and light displays. Want a front row seat? Book an outdoors table at one of the Shangri-La’s bars and restaurants, (the best view will be from Pool Bar or Pearls & Caviar), neighbouring Fairmont Bab Al Bahr’s Cedar Lounge or any of the mosque-facing venues in Souk Qaryat Al Beri.
6pm-midnight, until December 3. Shangri-La (02 509 8888), Fairmont Bab Al Bahr (02 654 3333).
Time Out Abu Dhabi,