You can jump right into the spirit of National Day almost anywhere in the UAE. Here’s our round up of some of the largest and most eye-catching events happening this weekend, to celebrate the country’s 45th birthday.
City Walk Festival
Dubai’s first outdoors mall is pulling out all the stops for National Day, hosting 30 international folk bands, as well as traditional fashion shows and art shows. For kids, there will be workshops, games and art activities promoting themes of unity and belonging. Activities take place from 4pm to 10pm daily throughout the week, but if you head down on Friday, December 2 you’ll also catch a fireworks show. Watch out for free giveaways to reflect the patriotic zeal.
Walkathon of the Nation
To reflect and honour the diversity of the UAE’s population, over 1,200 people are undertaking a mammoth walk through all seven Emirates — musically accompanied by 17 bands from all corners of the world. “Walkathon of the Nations this year reflects the love and belonging of all residents of the United Arab Emirates to this dear homeland,” explains Afra Al Sabri, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development, who is organising the event. The walkers, who set off from Citywalk on Tuesday, November 29 are passing through the western Emirates before reaching Abu Dhabi on December 5. Anyone is welcome to join them.
Running for the UAE
The first ‘UAE-themed running race’, taking place at 7am on Friday, December 2 at Meydan, will be a colourful affair, as all the runners will have UAE flags — “on their clothing, in their hands, painted on their faces, and attached to their baby strollers,” according to race organiser Anne Edge of Super Sports. If you don’t yet have your own flag-themed accessories, don’t worry as flags will be handed out to all who enter the 3, 5, 10 and 15km races. The best-dressed runner wins a prize. Dh150 and Dh100 for juniors, with family packages available. More information at www.supersportsuae.com
Dubai Festival City will host its first outdoor concert on Festival Bay, overlooking the Dubai skyline. Emirati singer Shamma Hamdan, who rose to fame on Arabs Got Talent, will be taking to the stage on Thursday, December 1 from 8pm to 10pm. On Friday, December 2, those enjoying the range of cultural activities taking place inside the mall should look out for a special National Day projection lighting up the nearby Intercontinental Hotel. On Thursday, December 1 from 8pm, Emirati celebrity Mohammed El Menhali is performing at Mall of the Emirates, and Emirati celebrity Mohammed Al Shehhi will be on stage at the same time at City Centre Mirdif. Both malls will also be hosting a range of other National Day activities.
Fun at the Fort
The Al Jahili fort in Al Ain — one of the oldest monuments in the UAE — is hosting a programme of workshops and performances on Thursday, December 1 and Friday, December 2 from 4.30pm to 10pm. Planes will paint the skies with the colours of the UAE flag, while martial music is performed by Abu Dhabi Police. Al Ayyalah — chanted poetry, drumming and dance — will be performed throughout. At the concert Memory of an Emirati Song, the singer Khaled Mohammed will be singing poems dedicated to Sheikh Zayed and reciting poetry by Osha bint Khalifa Al Suwaidi. In a series of workshops, families can express their artistic side by learning how to print photo collages onto textiles, creating models of Al Ain’s forts from clay, and using palm fronds as canvases. Visitors can also witness traditional Emirati handicraft weaving, and enjoy traditional food. For more information, call 03 711 83111.
While just outside Yas Marina Circuit, patriotically-decorated cars are taking part in the annual car parade on December 3, from 4pm to 9pm, while inside YMC, a range of free family activities are taking place on Friday, December 2 from 2pm to 7pm. Kids can enjoy inflatable amusement rides, a human claw and storytelling, and there’s also Arabic calligraphy, Harbya (Emirati) dancers, fireworks and live music. You can also catch the next generation of F1 drivers in action on the track as part of the annual GP2 and GP3 testing. Meanwhile, speed-lovers in Al Ain can enjoy a 35 per cent discount on Arrive & Drive karting sessions at Al Ain Raceway. A 45-minute session costs Dh225 on Friday, December 2 from 2pm to 10pm, and on Saturday, December 3 10:00am to 6pm.
The Palace party
On Friday, December 2 and Saturday, December 3, as well as letting off the traditional fireworks off the Emirates Palace seafront, the outside of Abu Dhabi’s grandest hotel will be lit up with a video mapping down the north and east side and on the archway depicting historical and artistic imagery of the UAE. Inside the hotel, a 14-metre-long replica of a dhow, built by the palace’s resident artist chef, Jagath Pereria, will take pride of place in the palace’s grand dome. In addition to using wood, the palace dhow was carved using kitchen utensils from styrofoam blocks. Visitors can also enjoy a display of 45 different kinds of dates, and a small heritage village.
On Thursday, December 1 Etihad Modern Art Gallery in Abu Dhabi is launching its new exhibition, Visions of the Future, with a focus on the achievements of the UAE. The newly opened Bab Al Qasr Hotel on Abu Dhabi Corniche is also marking the occasion with an exhibition — Historical Imagery and Great Achievements of the UAE. The exhibition will be opened on Wednesday evening by H.H Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan. Numisbing, a Dubai based professional Numismatic company, is hosting a rare and historical collection of the country’s coins, bank notes and medals at the Numisbing showroom in Deira. Call 0429 525 78 for more information.
Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival
This free festival, which is held in Al Wathba from Thursday, December 1 to January 1, aims to honour the heritage of the UAE — and its multicultural citizens too. The festival is split into four archaeologically distinct districts, representing 18 countries of the world. Each country will display its traditional products and food in 500 shops, and more than 1,000 live performances will be held throughout the festival on ten different stages. Visitors can also browse through exhibitions showcasing the UAE’s Date Festival, UAE traditions, and the Arabian horse. Food is served at 40 international and traditional restaurants, with 20 live cooking stations. For kids, there’s a small heritage zone where they can play vintage games, as well as craft workshops and an open-air cinema. Fireworks are set off every night at 8pm. The festival is open daily from 3.30pm to 10pm, visit www.zayedfestival.com.
Best of the rest
Abu Dhabi Mall, Mega Mall Sharjah and Bawadi Mall in Al Ain are all hosting shows and activities. At Arabian Centre in Dubai, traditional Arabic Dabke and Tannoura dancing will be performed, and there will also be henna painting and falconry displays to enjoy. On Thursday, December 1 at Mercato Mall kids can make their own flags and join in drumming sessions, and over the following two days, complementary nail painting in UAE flag colours is being offered, as well as cookie-decorating workshops.
Watch out for an Emirati flash mob event in the Piazza at JBR’s The Beach, on Friday, December 2 at 5pm — its one of several activities being hosted there.
Dubai’s Global Village kicks off its celebrations with an International Hot Air Balloon Festival on Thursday, December 1. Throughout the weekend, you can catch cultural shows, musicals, a Hollywood stunt show and street performances — all with a National Day twist.