Celebrating National Day

3 Dec

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We don’t really do a National Day in the UK, do we? The individual saints’ days flirt with the idea but nothing on the scale of what we were part of last night here in the UAE. A mere 43 years old they are justly proud of what has been achieved since this nation was formed. It seems like every office building, residential tower, hotel and mall competes to see who can put on the best display featuring the colours of the national flag. Even the cranes are draped in red, green, white and black. And everybody wants to celebrate. It’s not just the local Emirates either. This nation that welcomes everybody seems to inspire the expats, too

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Friends who have been here longer warned us to keep away from the Corniche. Of course, that is where we wanted to be, along with just about everybody else in the city. The atmosphere was buzzing. From the early morning whole families were setting up camp on any patch of grass in the vicinity they could find. Everything from rugs and camping chairs to shisha pipes and cool bags were laid out. By the evening every open space resembled a music festival – only without the mud.

In recent years a tradition has developed of decorating your car and driving along the multi-lane highway that runs the length of the main island’s beach area. Somewhere along the way spray foam and silly string got involved. The result is nothing short of delightful mayhem. To a cacophony of horns the traffic gradually grinds to a halt as children run among the cars spraying the exterior and any occupants willing to lower their windows. The same occupants also give as good as they get. It all culminates with fireworks on the beach.

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We savoured the good natured chaos for a couple of hours before deciding our best course was to retreat to a bar on the 62nd floor with a view over the beach where the fireworks would be lit. It also turned out to be happy hour with half price cocktails and champagne. A few Pimms later and it became apparent I could probably do with more than popcorn and soggy fruit to eat and we transferred to a hotel serving food – where it just happened to be Ladies Night i.e. free house beverages for the female of the species. Why on earth didn’t we stay until closing?

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A few words with the doorman convinced us we didn’t have the proverbial cat’s chance of picking up a taxi from the hotel. Nor, it turned out, anywhere else nearby either. With dehydration rapidly setting in, my tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth and brain shrinkage causing that familiar ache across the frontal lobe, we eventually got lucky around 1am and a four mile walk later. What a great night, though.

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Nothing moving on the roads below us and all taxis keeping well away.

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Feel like a dance? No problem just get out of the car and dance on the highway!

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