Yesterday, marked the 40th birthday of the United Arab Emirates. On December 2, 1971 six of the nine Trucial States along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf(aka Arabian Gulf) and the northwestern coast of the Gulf of Oman formed the United Arab Emirates and became a new country. The first six Emirates to join were Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujeirah, Ajman, and Umm al-Qaywayn. In early 1972 the six were joined by Ras al-Kheimah to form the UAE that we live in today. The emirate we live in, Abu Dhabi, is the largest emirate by land mass, and by far the richest sitting on the majority of the country's supply of oil.
Decorations for yesterday's festivities started showing up over a month ago with villas being draped in flags that cover most of the villa. Villas here can be rather large, so these flags are unlike anything you have seen before. On top of having huge flags adorning them, many of them are completely covered in vertical strings of lights reminiscent of Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation movie. Just about every street has every light pole adorned with UAE flags, and there are rows of flags made of lights and large lighted 40's down the main streets of the city. The decorations aren't just covering the private villas here, just about every business here is decorated as well, including all the high rises downtown.
Perhaps the funniest, or shall I say oddest of the decorations are the decorations people put on their cars. Talk about over the top! I'm not talking people dressing up crappy cars either, I'm talking people adorning their high end luxury cars with graphics of the country's leaders and huge UAE flags. I have seen some that keep it on their cars all year, but the majority have it during the months surrounding National Day. I will include a taste of this craziness in pictures following this post.
Last night, our family decided to make the trek downtown to the Corniche (the beach boardwalk area downtown) to be a part of the celebrations. The trip took us more than double the time that it normally does, but it was in no way boring at all. We were surrounded by silly string, snow spray, and water gun warriors going down the main street into downtown. There were kids hanging out of sunroofs and car doors spraying all the cars they passed as we were all barely moving as we edged our way downtown. Teenagers were car surfing and hanging on to the sides of trucks with their kandoras blowing in the wind. Some opted for wilder outfits with UAE colored cowboy hats and rhinestone face masks. Cars were covered in the usual National Day graphics, but some had added balloons, flowers, furry boas, and teddy bears for the night's festivities. Rolling down your window was done at your own risk, because the minute you did you fell pray to the little kids riding beside you ready to cover you and the inside of your car in silly string or spray snow. I think we even had one car that came up beside us spraying lemon Pledge...seriously! Several kids and teenagers got out of their cars and went running down the street of barely moving traffic attacking cars and spraying their weapons into sunroofs or even opening unlocked car doors if your windows were up to blast you with silly string and spray snow. Oh and the Arabic music was jamming from all the cars, including ours for a brief time thanks to my son who was loving the craziness. We opted for blasting "Enter Sandman" later in the night, and there were little Emirati kids bang their heads to the beat out the side of their car....PRICELESS! Perhaps my favorite car was downtown, there was a little spider monkey in it wearing pajamas that seemed to be just as much a party animal as those that surrounded him. He was bebopping on the side of a car decked out in UAE decorations.
You would have to be a real stick in the mud not to smile and enjoy the festivities that surrounded us last night. My son is already making his plans for next year where he plans to arm himself with massive amounts of silly string and decorate our car....if his dad lets him. I've often wondered in the past few weeks what America was like when it celebrated it's 40th birthday. Minus kids riding unsafely hanging out of cars, I would love to see an Independence Day celebration in the US that compares to what I saw here last night. We may be 235, but we should still be able to party like we are 40.