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Celebrating Emirati-style

December 5, 2011

Scenes from UAE National Day 40th anniversaryA few days ago, on December 2nd, the United Arab Emirates celebrated 40 years of existence.  It suddenly dawned on me that I’ve called Dubai my home for more than a quarter of this time.

Events over the weekend ranged from an international parachuting championship, to a hot air balloon festival, to Cycle the Seven Emirates for charity to massive firework displays over the creek.  Since the beginning of November huge flags started to appear and by the end of the month nearly every building was draped in the UAE colours of red, green, white and black.  The excitement was palpable.

Flags from UAE National Day 40th anniversary

One form of celebrating,  which has become a modern tradition, is to decorate your car lavishly and drive up and down a main thoroughfare (in Dubai it’s Jumeirah Beach Road) spraying other cars and pedestrians with silly string, foam,  party poppers and the odd water pistol.  I walked down there as the sun was setting, with my two dogs, to take in the atmosphere, passing the wonderful turf-covered Rolls-Royce and several parties on the way.  Police were on hand to make sure it didn’t get too dangerous (although there were rather too many children hanging out of cars for me to feel totally relaxed).  Hazel got a bit spooked by the silly string.

Scenes from UAE National Day 40th anniversary

I returned later with my younger daughter  and we watched the procession for ages, not escaping being the target of a few well-aimed squirts.  Dubai is kept clean by an army of street sweepers and some appeared, brooms in hand, including one wearing a ‘flag-colours’ afro wig and a big smile.

Scenes from UAE National Day 40th anniversary

The paraders loved having an audience and most posed for the camera.  You can see more pictures here…

But a celebration needs food doesn’t it? Sorry no food today, but come back tomorrow for a very special peep inside a local home to experience some Emirati cooking.

Decorated houses at night


  1. December 5, 2011 2:23 pm

    Thanks for sharing! They sure know how to celebrate.



  2. December 5, 2011 3:23 pm

    Beautiful pictures, Sally! Love the green car 😀

  3. December 5, 2011 3:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing your photos! It’s interesting to see how a young country celebrates its birthday! 🙂

  4. December 5, 2011 4:04 pm

    Wow, all them big expensive cars! Thanks for the sharing the experience with us.
    🙂 Mandy

    • December 8, 2011 8:08 am

      Thanks for your comments, Mandy, Zita, Nadia…and Rosa you are always so quick off the mark. I don’t know how you do it.

  5. December 5, 2011 4:37 pm

    Hey, nice pictures! I was in the same place, just couldn’t capture pictures as beautiful as yours. My car even got “sprayed” Hehe! Great to find another blogger from Dubai 🙂

    • December 8, 2011 8:07 am

      How funny – We were on the street Tashsn, that’s why we were such an easy target. I didn’t care about getting sprayed but I had to be a bit careful of my camera!

  6. December 5, 2011 5:19 pm

    I know the fireworks must have been amazing!

  7. December 5, 2011 5:58 pm

    I first spent Christmas in Abu Dhabi 36 years ago. There were no decorations at all for the Festive Season then–but Ramadan decorations did coincide, which was nice. It’s amazing to see how much the Emirates change with every visit. Thanks for sharing!

    • December 8, 2011 8:06 am

      It’s funny how the celebrations all roll into each other here. We’re straight onto the Film Festival now and there were huge fireworks just down the road for the Mission Impossible premiere. The Malls are ‘Christmassified’ – there’s an enormous stollen event for charity in the Mall of the Emirates plus absolutely ginormous trees. Then it’ll be the Shopping Festival in Jan. Yes times have changed!

  8. December 5, 2011 6:40 pm

    I’m in anticipation since I would love to read about Emirati cooking.
    By the way, ever since I read about your cassava fritters I wanted to try them but it’s hard to find cassava here. Yesterday I spotted some, besides the price was reasonable, so at last I’ll try them 🙂

    • December 8, 2011 8:03 am

      Have fun making. Let me know what you think of them Silvia.

  9. forkitoverdubai permalink
    December 6, 2011 11:18 am

    Cool Pics!
    I couldn’t believe the grass covered car! Your house is in the best location to view all the celebrations on Jumeirah Beach Road!

    • December 8, 2011 8:01 am

      No nor me – I was walking down to the beach road and spotted it from afar. As I was taking pics another car pulled over and guys got out to have a closer look. Their car was pretty interesting too!

  10. December 7, 2011 3:55 am

    Happy holidays to you and your family. I enjoyed the photo journey. Thanks for sharing.

  11. December 7, 2011 9:06 am

    I personally think the foam and string spray is out of control and has nothing to do with celebrating the national day. People should be banned from using them.

    The day after a big group of Emiratis volunteered to clean the streets from all the mess that was caused. This initiative took place in both Dubai and Abudhabi.
    I salute the growth of the Emaratis for actually reaching this stage of thought and not just wait for the street sweepers to do their job. Yes the streets were already partially cleaned but they actually recognized that cleaning their own mess for their own country made a difference and yes it did make a big difference.

    • December 7, 2011 9:38 am

      I heard about this after I wrote this Arwa and totally agree with your sentiments. I also read that the police had made over 600 bookings including spraying string and foam which is not allowed. I personally thought that the atmosphere this year got the balance right – controlled exuberance. In years gone by there was too much danger, recklessness and vandalism. Thanks so much for your comment and sharing your view.

  12. December 8, 2011 4:38 am

    Party time! Looks like everyone had fun!

    • December 8, 2011 7:33 am

      Yes indeed – there were many other celebrations in different forms throughout the city too.

  13. December 14, 2011 9:23 pm

    Wow – I never knew how seriously they took the celebration! Looks like South Africa at the time of the World Cup when EVERYONE was wearing or displaying a flag. They missed one trick though – those wing mirror flag socks that all the cars were sporting in SA 😉

  14. December 3, 2012 12:10 pm

    Gives me a pleasure to hop onto older posts… love this post. Sharing it a year after! Yes, the party does seemed to have moved onto the Marina area amidst all the police securities!


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