Today was National Day, the 2 December anniversary of the creation of the UAE – and a big birthday, too, as this year the UAE turned 40.
I can sympathise as mine is just round the corner, although compared to a soon-to-be 40 mum wondering whether I should be having a mid-life crisis, a 40-year-old nation sounds like a spring chicken.
BB came home from school this week waving a flag, the Emiratis decorated their cars and put lights up, and the Thursday before National Day was declared a public holiday for the Islamic New Year, making it a long weekend.
The parades, including a Ferrari and classic car parade, the fireworks, the shows, the Dubai Fountain dancing to the UAE National Anthem, the flags on cars, hot-air balloons and the Sheikh reading poetry on the radio combined to create an electrifying buzz.
Both boys enjoyed celebrations at school and nursery earlier in the week. The Arabic department at BB’s school requested that the kids wear national dress on Tuesday, leaving us mums scratching our heads over where to buy an abaya or dishdash small enough, but this was quickly followed by an email saying national colours would do.
LB’s nursery put on a lovely morning of activities that I went to with high expectations as they’d advertised among other things mosque-decorating and a dhow (traditional sailing vessel) to climb on board – they really pushed the boat out (excuse the pun!) and I wasn’t disappointed.
National Day is never entirely smooth, however – a number of young drivers always go a little crazy and indulge in stunt driving, such as driving on two wheels, which led to the impoundment of 440 cars during last year’s celebrations.
This year, the prize for the best-dressed vehicle went to an Emirati business woman who spent 162,000dhs on decorating her car with 150,000 individual Swarovski crystals – here she is showing her bling BMW to the media.
But my favourite National Day story is still my boss’ tale from last year, because it sums up perfectly the kind of exotic pets the wealthy Emiratis can afford to own. He took his kids down to Beach Rd for a ‘cultural experience’ and, amid all the spray foam and silly string, they spotted a funny-looking dog in the back of a car. Closer inspection revealed it wasn’t a dog – but a lion (not fully grown, but even so!).