Every year, in its grand National Day productions, the UAE looks back on how far it has come since the Union was formed. At the epic show marking its 51st year on Friday, its story was told through the eyes of its pioneers — the Emiratis who dream big with their homeland, those who are now turning ambition into action.
Conservationists, agritech and solar energy experts, an aerospace engineer, an educator, and a civil engineer — all lent their voices to tell the UAE story and all the dreams that shape its future.
Powered by unique technologies and gripping storytelling techniques, it was a solid, well-researched production that even featured a first look at the Etihad Rail passenger train and a parade of 1,000 children.
“The show is inspired by the UAE’s rich culture and its present-day ambitions. It offers a glimpse into a bright future that brings together everyone who calls the UAE home,” said Rawdha Al Qubaisi, creative executive producer.
Nearly 6,900 individuals of almost 100 nationalities — including top engineers, creatives, and technicians from around the world — worked together since June to bring to the stage a state-of-the-art show which will be remembered for years to come.
UAE residents who wish to experience the spectacular show live can book their slots for the ticketed show which runs from December 3 to 11 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec).
Here are the highlights:
A TUNNEL OF LIGHT FROM 1971 TO 2071
At the start of the show, the national anthem was performed by an Emirati choir, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and Emirati musicians. This was followed by a tribute to the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, which was done through a projection of archival footage celebrating his achievements.
At both ends of the stage portals are adorned with 51 lights —one for every year of the UAE’s history. The tunnel of light presented the journey from 1971 to 2071 through several vignettes seen through the life of a child born in 1971 who marks his 100th year in 2071.
Throughout the ceremony, a group of children guided the journey from past to present to future. It showcased the country’s achievements in various fields through the eyes of pioneers.
Noura Al Mansoori, a scientist and conservationist, spoke about the rich biodiversity of the UAE’s marine life. “Our sea is our culture, history, and future, and together we can keep it safe,” she said. The segment featured props that were made in the UAE by local craftspeople and artisans.
In the segments about the land environment, Habiba Al Marashi, founder of the Emirates Environmental Group said: “Each tree we plant shades and shelters our children.”
The segment included 10,000 mangroves which are part of the 100 million mangroves thatthe UAE pledged to plant by 2030. The 10,000 mangroves will all be planted after the ceremony.
The segment on modern agriculture farming techniques featured hydroponic and vertical farming. “Our land is fertile, in it, we planted our dreams, and from it we reap its future,” said Abdulla Al Kaabi, an expert in the agritech industry.
THE OUTER SPACE
The segment on space featured Fatema Al Hameli, an aerospace engineer who said: “I was seven when I knew my future was in space, as part of the future of our seven Emirates. Then, I witnessed glory here on earth when the Hope Probe reached Marsin seven months.”
THE ETIHAD RAIL PASSENGER TRAIN
The Etihad Railway passenger train, which will connect all emirates, was revealed for the first time during the ceremony. Civil engineer Khuloud Al Mazrouei, who is involved in the project said: “I remember the first steps, the tears of joy and pride, watching a dream come true, and the first rail tracks that came to life.”
The reveal of the train was followed by a segment on renewable energy which featured Maryam Al Mazrouei who works in the solar industry and who spoke about her dream to power the UAE using clean solar energy. “We learn from our environment, from which we take and to which we give, and from this sun, we discover the renewal of our sources of life,” she said.
The segment on enlightenment featured the story of prominent educator Saeed Naseeb Al Mansoori who told the story of how he taught himself how to read using the symbols used by UAE tribes.
“God blessed us with our solidarity with one another. Our collective spirit is what eased all of our challenges,” he said.
The journey into the future was symbolized by a 1,000-strong children parade who walked from one end of the stage to the other raising their flags. Their path included illuminated writings of their dreams and work ambitions.
Speaking about the research that went into the production, Reem Mohammed Al Mansoori, co-founder of Bani and Al Culture, said the organisers looked into the narratives of generational pioneers and that their stories inspired the concept of the show. “The show is informed by examples of how the country has contributed to the environment and draws inspiration from how traditional costumes are a significant part of Emirati heritage,” she said.
Al Mansoori, along with her partners Saeed Al Suwaidi and Randa Omar Bin Haider, worked closely with the content development and creative teams to ensure that all visual material is aligned with the UAE’s culture and values, and draws inspiration from the country’s natural environment. The researchers also include Arwa Abdulla Al Nuaimi and Noora Abd Al Aziz Khamis.
Artistic director Ayesha Hadhir Al Mheiri said that the show takes the audience on a generational journey of pioneers who have made significant contributions to seven main fields: marine sciences, environment, agriculture, space, transportation, solar energy and education.
“These narratives aim to inspire the next generation and hope to instil a strong sense of national identity,” she said adding that the visual identity, inspired by the traditional Al Sadu, features several variations, including elements inspired by the ceremony and those representing the key themes of this year’s show.
11 NEW POEMS
The ceremony featured 11 new poems written by poets such as Juma’a Bin Mane’e AlGuwais, Ali Al Khawar, Saif Al Saadi, and Salim Bin Kadeh Al Rashidi. Their poems pay tribute to the UAE’s accomplishments and inspiring stories. A poem from the anthology of the UAE’s founding father the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, was also part of the ceremony.
The musical direction of the show presented a fusion of traditional Emirati songs with international music, overseen by music director and composer Mohammed Al Ahmed. The live musical show included musicians from The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Emirati composers.
“The show also included a military performance mixed with the traditional art of Taghrooda, in addition to Al Ayyala – an important traditional performance art and an essential element of Emirati culture,” said Al Ahmed.
The music team also includes director Pierre Mussche from Musicom, and Adam Miller, who directs the show’s music output. In addition, the orchestra was led by engineer Ali Al Amir and Maestro Nicholas Dot. The Maestro Haitham Sa’adoon led the Arabic recording of the chordophones and solo instruments. The Emirates Choir played a significant role as they sang all the scenes and orated the poems in the ceremony.
More than 50 locations across the seven emirates live-streamed the much anticipated 51st National Day official ceremony on December 2nd, which was held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC).
In Abu Dhabi, citizens and residents watched the show at Majalis Abu Dhabi, located in Abu Dhabi city, Al Ain, Al Dhafra, in addition to Qasr Al Hosn, Sheikh Zayed Festival, The Founder’s Memorial, and Liwa Festival. In Dubai, it was broadcast in Al Wasl Plaza at Expo City and Hatta Dam. As for Sharjah, the ceremony was streamed at the Sharjah National Park, Al Dhaid Fort and Khorfakkan, while Ajman residents enjoyed the show in Flag Park and Marina Ajman. In addition, different cinemas across the UAE, including Novo Cinemas, VOX Cinemas, Roxy Cinemas, Reel Cinemas, Star Cinemas, and Oscar Cinema, broadcast the live show.
The Organising Committee of the 51st UAE National Day Celebrations was formed to oversee this year’s official National Day celebration. The Committee is chaired by His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, with Her Highness Sheikha Mariam bint Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as Vice Chair.