Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be moving to a foreign country to live, let alone a country in the Middle East. Over the 2009 Christmas and New Year’s holidays, my husband Roger and I discussed what we wanted the next part of our life to be like. He thought that before retiring, he would like to do one more airport project but only if he could find something very interesting. I half-jokingly agreed that would be fine but could he try for an exotic location? As usual, Roger came through and soon we were headed to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. This blog is a recap of our "leap-of- faith" wanderings around the Middle East and beyond. We joyfully share these expat experiences.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

UAE National Day Celebration

Countries around the world relish celebrating their founding days and in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) they take their National Day seriously. 

His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Nayhan
Celebrated on December 2, National Day commemorates the day in 1971 that His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan banded together the seven emirates of the Trucial States to form a new country - United Arab Emirates. National Day is an exuberant celebration of the greatness of this young country’s heritage.

One thing Emiratis love is their cars. Just stand on any street corner and watch the show. Glitzy, glamorous, bejeweled and audacious are words that describe the cars you can see. For National Day, all restraints are unleashed in the fervorous activity to decorate one’s car for the big celebration and show one’s love for their country . . . and proudly parading them all over town.  

For National Day 2013, I go to YAS Island in Abu Dhabi for the annual car parade where they were trying to break the Guinness World Record for the most decorated cars in a parade. Unfortunately, they come a little bit short of the required 300 cars but the contestants certainly have a grand time celebrating and competing to be one of the three vehicles names “2013 Best Dressed.”   

Here are some of the highlights!

The largest vehicle is Yehya Bel Helli’s seven ton Peterbuilt Ultra Sleeper truck. Last year he won Best Dressed vehicle with this behemoth decorated with a map of the UAE. This year he is honoring the founders of the UAE  with a graphic of their portraits with the inscription in Arabic, “You are for us and we are for you.”

The UAE developed Nimr – 300 horse power tiger armored military vehicle designed to operate in the  harsh desert climate of the Middle East– was decked out in military colors with a giant falcon embellishment on the hood.

Sara and the “Golden Racer.”
Glittering cars were very big this year.  “Team Spirit of the UAE” entered 3 vehicles, a sparkling gold BMW coup named Sabiaq Al Fhahiba (Golden Racer), a 1962 GMC pickup truck and a Lexus 4x4. Sara told me it took her three days to decorate the gold glitter covered car.  Sure hope she gets all that glitter off that beautiful car.

Azam Khan with Katie and friend.
Azam Khan, an Afghani who lives in Al Ain, took three days to decorate his car himself. He is hoping to win the “Best Dressed” competition.

Mohamed Lari, born and raised in Abu Dhabi, spent 3 ½ days decorating his Honda SUV in the colors of the UAE flag.  “I decorated my car to celebrate National Day in a unique glittering design so it would attract attention.”

Sisters Maitha (black dress) age 10 and Mahara (in the white dress) age 9 proudly show off their family’s decorated car. “We are so proud of our car. It is going to win.”



Postscript . . .

Flag to Flag cycle marathon . . . On my way to Yas Island I passed the cyclists participating in the Flag to Flag Marathon. These 1000 cyclists started at 7 am in Dubai at the Union House where His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan raised the UAE flag for the first time 42 years ago. The participants pedaled a total of 150 km traveling down the infamous Shaikh Zayed Road to Yas Island in Abu Dhabi and then over the Saadiyat bridge arriving at the Abu Dhabi Cornish at 2 pm. Quite a ride!


  1. Thanks for sharing your photos Katie, as I was curious about what I was missing out on Yas Island with the car decorating contest. Perhaps I will go next year to see for myself.

    1. Definitely put it on your calendar for next year. It was such great fun. If Roger would let me decorate the Vette I would enter the parade. But alas, he would never let me do that to his beloved car. I will have to be content taking photos!

  2. Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed them. I had a great time with all the contestants asking me if I was from CNN. Go figure. A great fun day! with lost of laughs!

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