National Day celebrates the family of the UAE

Airah Nazrin, 3, originally from Kerela, India, dressed in the UAE flag colours during the 51st National Day holidays. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

On the occasion of the UAE’s 51st National Day, the country’s leaders are taking stock of the remarkable journey embarked on so far; one that has seen the population of the Emirates grow by more than 9 million people; one that has seen GDP go from roughly $15 billion in 1975, to almost $360bn in 2020.

President Sheikh Mohamed has given his first National Day address as the country’s leader. In it he said that the UAE will be a strong supporter of humanity and its development, committed to tackling global challenges from poverty to climate change.

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He also re-emphasised a strong domestic vision: “Taking care of our citizens and opening up all avenues of development, creativity and self-affirmation before them has been, and will always remain, our top priority and we will spare no effort to achieve this goal.”

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National Day is an opportune occasion to reflect on these foundational ideas. On a simpler level, but no less of an important one, it is also about spending time with family. Across the country, people are enjoying a long weekend amid UAE-themed decorations, fireworks displays and special events.

Family is, after all, a precious theme for the Emirates. It is a country where ancestral memory plays a major role in the culture. And in fitting with National Day’s focus on the UAE as a big family, it is also a rare chance to hear from a key pillar of the country’s leadership: its first ladies.

In a series of exclusive interviews for The National, many of the country’s most senior women spoke about their hopes for the nation’s future.

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The wife of the UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, who is known as Mother of the Nation, spoke of the importance of “building the human before the structure,” and her joy at the country emerging from Covid-19. “We celebrate the return to normal life in the country following the receding effects of the pandemic, and the lifting of all precautionary measures relating to it,” she said.

They also shared memories of the day the country was formed. Sheikha Hind bint Maktoum Al Maktoum, wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, reminisced on her early National Days and the excitement for the future they contained: “Our founding leaders instilled much hope and pride in the nation, and we knew that the country and its people were destined for a bright and promising future.”

All the interviews are fundamentally a family’s reflection on the origins, present situation and prospects of the UAE, one big and cohesive family itself. These are the many profound themes that make up the importance of this long weekend. Or, as President Sheikh Mohamed put it: “The National Day is an occasion for pride and joy. It is also an opportunity to recharge energies, find fresh determination and resolve, and renew the covenant with the soul and the homeland of every Emirati to preserve our achievements.”

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