December 2, 2011 was the 40th anniversary of the formation of the UAE (United Arab Emirates).
Things you need to know: this country is only 40 years old. It formed from seven tribal states into one super rich country sitting on loads of oil. The guy who united them all is very impressive (late UAE President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan). The official National Day website is here (also watch the official ceremony).
Emirates (pronounced em-ir-ot-ees) take their patriotism very seriously. We agree that they make Americans look like total light weights in this area. It was so cool to watch the love of country ooze out of every poor and crevice of the place and the people around us. Every single place was decorated. Every business. Every classroom. Every street. Every round about. Every Emirate car. People wore jewelry, clothes, painted faces, and painted hair. Homes had giant tractor trailer size flags hanging across the front.
We were prepared for all kinds of crazy party-like-its-1999-type behavior. But, we were smart enough to know our limits and avoid Dubai and Abu Dhabi so as to avoid massive crowds and car accidents. But, even in our little town, some fun things happened.
We did have an adventure on national day. There is a fairground type area near us called “Heritage Village”. It’s on the edge of town, backing up to the desert. We kept hearing that this was the place for the big party in our neck of the woods. So naturally, we wrangled up some neighbors (actually, they wrangled us up), and went as a group. As soon as we arrived on the scene, the part of me that runs from crowds started panicking. For you Texans, think OU/UT weekend in fairpark. For you Chicagoans, think Taste of Chicago, after the fireworks. Either way – get out!
There was no actual danger. But, the never-ending traffic, campers in the desert, carnival lights, kids spraying silly string out of moving vehicles onto other vehicles (or was that spray paint?), three lanes of honking traffic driving down a dark two lane two-way road, whole families running across the interstate (risking their lives) because there was no parking on the side with the event, and did we mention traffic? It took us 20 minutes to get in, and an hour to get home. And we didn’t even park. I’m sure the people watching would have been amazing…maybe next year…
Car decorating was one of the best parts. There was an actual contest. Cool things to put on your car include faces of the first President, photos of current rulers, multiple versions of 40th anniversary logos, red/green/black/white, feathers, bedazzles, flags mounted to trailer hitches… you get the idea. We did not get pictures of the Porsche Carrera that was spray painted to match the flag or the 100% bedazzled SUV. Check out some crazy cars here.
There is a place in town called the Civic Center. Basically, its most of the government buildings all in one area. Well, these guys went to town decorating their buildings. Instead of driving around looking at Christmas lights, we drove around looking at national day lights. Here is a handy-dandy video of some buildings. Not shown: the fireworks shows twice a night for three days that we watched from our roof every day. (If you can’t see the video, click the YouTube button on the bottom right-hand corner).