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National Day

National Day 2017 and 2018

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 Persian 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.

Yawm Al Watani, translated “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 honored 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”.

National Day Events

Some of the most notable events to consider attending, though one cannot hope to list them all, are as follows:

  • The Abu Dhabi Air Expo. The air show typically involves seven jets spewing out the colors of the UAE flag as they soar through the air high above the crowd. There are many stunts performed, and the people pack in tight along the seaside road to watch the action. It is well worth seeing.
  • The Emirates Classic Car Festival. Held in Al Ain, this the Mid-East’s premier showcasing of classic cars, defined as anything built before 1986. There are a wide variety of cars, trucks, and motorcycles to be seen, and no car-lover will be disappointed.
  • Dubai National Day celebrations, held int he Mirdif City Center from November 30th till December 5th. There are folklore shows from all over the Gulf region, concerts with UAE stars, “cartoon character shows,” and of course, endless fireworks.
  • The Umm AL Quwain Car Parade, held on December 1st. Vehicles decorated in bright colors crowd the streets for an “impromptu parade” with profuse flag-waving and a barbecue to follow it up. You will hear much horn-honking and Emirati music playing loudly on car radios. Picnicking and fishing are the “quieter side” of this celebration.

Should you be in the UAE on National Day, you will have no trouble finding an event to attend. Knowing what the celebrating is all about and where to find the best events, however, will make the day far more enjoyable.