We are not the citizens of this country; we have not been residents for long enough. In fact, a few years ago we knew nothing about the place except that it falls in the Middle East.
And yet, last year on December 2nd we had a strong urge to don the U.A.E. colors and celebrate its National day as our own. The frenetic celebratory mood was so infectious!
It started with every house, building, mall, store and restaurant getting decorated in black, red, white and green (the U.A.E. flag colors). As the day approached we saw flag-themed caps, T shirts, badges, wigs and other such merchandise at the local supermarkets and pop – up shops in the malls. All we could see around were only the flag colors. On 1st December, the eve of National Day, we decided to visit the capital Abu Dhabi and what we saw there left us amazed.
We could only see the number 41 (since it was the 41st national day), ‘Spirit of the union’ (official theme of the celebration) and the flag colors everywhere. Cars of all kinds, painted for the occasion, zipped past us. People’s faces, hair and even nails were painted. Clothing, from T shirts to mufflers and stoles were all made up of flags colors, but most endearing was that even hijabs and abbayas had a dash of U.A.E. flag colors. The presence of the flag was so awe inspiring that we started seeing it even in the traffic lights. The black of the pole, red, green of the lights and the yellow passed off for white.
Young Emirati boys chased and shot snow sprays at each other just like in India we spray coloured water on each other on Holi. Families were picnicking together even at night. Just as we reached the corniche the most bedazzling fireworks show started. The fireworks were being launched from 3 boats afloat the creek and this made the show even more beautiful because the sparkling lights of the fireworks reflected on water too. This experience was very reminiscent of Diwali back home.
It felt as if U.A.E.’s National Day was their Holi, Diwali and all other festivals rolled into one. This truly left us puzzled and impressed because we had not seen such ecstatic jubilation even on Eid, which is the religious festival.
That day we understood that a country that celebrates its National day with a greater fervor than its religious festivals is definitely committed to its growth and development. In India we do celebrate our national festivals with great zest but the fierce enthusiasm that we witnessed in U.A.E. had a connect that we had not seen before.
The cherry on this delicious, festive cake was Sheikh Mohammed’s personal message on our phones. It made us feel like we belong. Why wouldn’t you accept a country as your own, if it embraces you with open arms?
A year passed, and with the 42nd National day approaching, it gave a sense of deja vu. The flag colors appeared everywhere, celebration filled the air, and then something grand happened. Something that gave U.A.E., especially Dubai, another reason to celebrate! On 28th of November, Dubai won the bid to host Expo 2020.
The build up for the bid had started two years ago. The logo of Expo 2020 was all over Dubai. A few months short of the voting, the campaigning became even more vigorous. Articles and advertisements tried to educate the residents about how the Expo will help Dubai grow and more importantly how they are going to grow with Dubai. As the judgment day approached, most businesses and various individuals could be seen showing support for Dubai’s bid. Best wishes could be seen printed supermarket bills to Laban tetra packs. The Expo theme could be spotted on cars, nail art, cupcakes and where not!
On the 28th of November the excitement was palpable! ‘Is Dubai going to win’ was the question was on everyone’s mind and was the topic of living room and meeting room conversations alike. Baskin Robbins announced free ice creams on Dubai victory and the malls celebrated with offers to mark this achievement. All eyes were fixed on the live streaming of the voting from Paris. We didn’t even have to look at the results, as Dubai skied filled up with celebratory explosions and fireworks as soon as the announcement was made in Paris. Everyone was out of their homes to catch a glimpse of these fireworks and we even saw Indian residents bursting their leftover Diwali crackers. This kind of celebration was usually reserved for times when the Indian cricket team won matches. These were people who are not citizens of Dubai. People who are not even sure of staying in Dubai till the Expo. Yet, everyone joined the frenzy! Everyone seemed to have a feeling of having won!
Dubai made them feel this way; it is this spirit of the government that brings them closer to the citizens and the expats and unifies them for common goals. What we witnessed on the national day was this spirit, this vision of putting your country first and it is this vision that won Dubai this bid, and the way this victory was celebrated, assures you that this spirit is even stronger now.
As U.A.E. turns 42, it can reconfirm that it indeed is a special number. There is no question about it.