National Day is the celebration of the independence and subsequent unification of the Emirates in 1971.
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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a union of seven distinct Arab kingdoms located on the south eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula and bordering the Gulf. The history leading up to this event is complex.
First, Arab pirates in the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries were accustomed to raiding British ships, which led the British to attack in 1809 and 1819. They then formed an alliance with local rulers beginning in 1820 and culminating in 1892. In exchange for British protection, certain limitations on independence were agreed to. Later, in the 1960s, the British withdrew, ending the longstanding “Exclusive Agreement” on December 1st, 1971.
No union was agreed upon in the days just before the end of the treaty, and Iran and Saudi Arabia began to act aggressively toward the tiny emirates. Out of necessity, Abu Dhabi and Dubai drew up a constitution and began a union immediately on December 1st. Four more emirates joined on December 2nd, and the last one joined in February of 1972.
National Day is celebrated every December 1st and 2nd to remember the events described just above. The country’s first president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who led the unification movement, is also honoured at this time.
Grand-sized National Day events occur all across the country every year, and most are off work for at least four consecutive days. The skies are lit up with profuse firework displays. Dancing and auto shows are common. “Heritage Villages” are erected all over the nation to remember traditional ways during this time. Concerts, parades, special museum exhibits, and more abound. The whole nation is thrown into a celebratory mood, and there are events to be found “around every corner”.