Fireworks, flags, parades and more anniversary fun for the 40th UAE National Day


The UAE is 40, everything from parades to photography exhibitions are being held in celebration of the UAE’s 40th birthday; we’re all expecting some serious celebration, so get out there and enjoy yourselves!

Join in the Corniche parade
Keep your eyes peeled for what might at first appear to be an invasion of Hell’s Angels, but is actually a celebratory motorbike parade – 200 will zoom across the city from Yas Island to the Corniche. Then everyone with a set of wheels is invited to take part in the annual vehicle parade. You know the drill! Corniche Road is transformed into a carnival with flag-waving, painted faces, music and cars dressed up in silly string, paint, foam, portraits of influential UAE figures and even – we’ve seen these with our own eyes – newly installed TV screens showing pictures of the Emirates.
December 1, Motorbikes 2pm-5pm, Vehicles 5pm-1am.

Gasp at the fireworks
If there’s one thing Abu Dhabi knows how to do well – it’s a fireworks display. Last year’s amazing display is set to be topped this year by three consecutive evenings of colourful explosions. Be prepared for some serious neck ache after all that sky gazing.
Three night display, November 30 – December 2, around 8.30pm onwards.

See historical exhibitions
Hilton’s photography exhibition
Drop by the Hilton’s lobby to see a photo exhibition that highlights the opening of the hotel in 1973 and the development of Abu Dhabi over the last 40 years. There will also be a Bedouin tent with UAE music for visitors to experience, and everyone will be greeted upon arrival with traditional Arabic coffee and dates.
December 2, throughout the day, Hilton Abu Dhabi (02 681 1900).

The Roots of Success, celebrating 40 years of achievements
Palestinian photographer Ahmed Junaidi is exhibiting his collection of rare and historical photographs of Abu Dhabi at Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana. Called ‘The Roots of Success’, Junaidi’s pictures date back to when he first came to Abu Dhabi in 1968 and there were no high buildings or vast developments. Since then he has documented everyday UAE life through scenes showing the Bedouin lifestyle, fishermen, falconry, camel racing and more.
Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana with Swiss Art Gate (02 657 0000).


The UAE Experience Pavilion
The UAE Pavilion, originally built for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, has been brought back to its permanent home in the UAE. The exhibition explores themes from the UAE’s past, present and future, including many previously unseen artefacts and photographs.
UAE Pavilion, Sadiyaat Island, adjacent to Manarat Al Sadiyaat. Open until December 20, noon-10pm.

Watch traditional horsemanship
Forty UAE nationals, both male and female, will ride horses round Yas Marina Circuit wearing customised dress and carrying UAE flags. There will also be show jumping competitions at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club and an endurance horse race for women at the ADEC Emirates International Endurance Village over the National Day weekend.
Horse Riders Parade December 1, 5pm-12pm, Yas Circuit Parade (02 659 9800).


Attend the official ceremony
This ceremony will include artistic operettas that reflect the achievements of the UAE over the past 40 years, along with some dramatic visual effects. Some of the UAE’s leaders and heads of state are expected to be present.
December 2, 5pm-7.30pm, Zayed Sports City Stadium (02 403 4200).

See the Grand Mosque illuminated
The Grand Mosque is pretty dazzling as it is, but over the next few days this most iconic of buildings is going to be illuminated with 3D projections and light displays. Want a front row seat? Book an outdoors table at one of the Shangri-La’s bars and restaurants, (the best view will be from Pool Bar or Pearls & Caviar), neighbouring Fairmont Bab Al Bahr’s Cedar Lounge or any of the mosque-facing venues in Souk Qaryat Al Beri.
6pm-midnight, until December 3. Shangri-La (02 509 8888), Fairmont Bab Al Bahr (02 654 3333).

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