Tag Archives | National Day

The HerStories Project

It’s been a big week out here in the ‘Dhabs, I have to say, starting with the Rain Day two weeks ago.

What is this “rain day,” you ask? Well, my dears, that’s when the serene desert skies bust open and it pours, like a veritable rainpocalypse.

Or at least, that’s what you think it is if you grew up in the desert. For those of us who grew up in parts of the world with, you know, weather, it was just kind of wet and windy.  But the schools closed at noon because people were afraid of flooding. Or getting wet. Or something.

Big Event Number One.

Then? Less than a week later, schools were closed because Dubai won its bid to host the World Expo 2020.  We got the notification that schools were closing at 10:15 PM on Wednesday.  Schools closed Thursday, which was Thanksgiving Day in the US but here was — theoretically, anyway — a work day.

Big Event Number Two.

Then the day after Expo Holiday, our dear friends and neighbors hosted the fourth annual expat Thanksgiviing, with many small children, several new babies, three turkeys, the best sweet potatoes I’ve ever had in my life, and way too many pies. (Although really, can you have enough pie? )

Big Event Number Three.

Then? National Day Weekend, which meant two more days off from school and work, plus parades, air shows, decorated cars, fireworks, and of course, silly string. (All you want to know about National Day: here, and here, and here.)

Big Event Number Four.

And now? As if all of that isn’t enough? Now, I’m going to blow the horns and bang the gongs for the publication of a wonderful anthology, edited by Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger.  These two writers have put together The HerStories Project (Histories, HerStories, get it?), and have included an essay of mine in this volume, which includes writing from Alexandra Rosas, Galit Breen, and an introduction by Jill Smokler, aka Scary Mommy.

And THAT is Big Event Number Five, which pretty much trumps all the others.

Guess what? You don’t have to admire the book from afar — oh no,  my friends, you can get one for your very own self.  Plus it’s holiday season, so you can get one for pretty much everyone else you know. See? Holiday shopping, fait accompli.  You’re welcome.



Continue Reading · on December 6, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, Books, expat, Feminism, reading, UAE, writing

National Day


Last week the UAE celebrated its forty-first birthday.  My children point out with great glee that I am older than the country. Why they think that’s so funny, I’m not sure, but they find it to be a laugh riot.

Last year was the big four-oh for the country, and like most of us when we hit those decade milestones, they pulled out all the stops: several nights worth of fireworks, a huge pageant in a sports arena, swooping fighter jets putting on an aerial show over the Gulf.  This year’s celebration didn’t go quite so over the top, although we did get the fighter jets writing hearts in the sky with plumes of smoke in the colors of the UAE flag.

We learned last year that in order to be fully in the spirit of National Day, one needs either a decorated car or cans of silly string – or both. We’d stocked up on silly string (twelve cans between two boys, which, it turned out, wasn’t quite enough), but drew the line at decorating our (rented) car.  And although generally speaking I dislike crowds, noise, chaos, and displays of patriotism, off we went with some friends to stroll the Corniche to spray silly string at all and sundry celebrate the UAE’s forty-first birthday.

National Day marks the official unification of the regions that now constitute the Emirates: Fujairah, Ajman, Sharjah, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Umm al- Quain (Ras al-Kaimah joined the following year). Sheikh Zayed, the man who gets the most credit for engineering this unification, is regarded as a national hero, and his face gets plastered everywhere as a result, even on the back of a passing Nissan:

Zayed is the one in the middle, with the wiper coming out of his chin

The entire city gets lit up for the holiday, which is always celebrated on Dec 2.  The wattage that goes into these displays would put the Christmas lights in Bay Ridge and Sheepshead Bay to shame:

And of course, cars.  There is something eminently appropriate about a country whose wealth comes from oil and gas celebrating its founding by decorating what is, literally, the vehicle of their wealth.  Also? Easier to put a sticker on a car than on an oil well, which is also very difficult to drive down the Corniche (not to mention really hard to park).

Decorations ranged from elegantly simple…

…to somewhat more ornate…

…to seriously tricked out:

But ultimately, in the eyes of my kids at least, Dec 2 is the national silly string holiday.  Cars moving slowly along the Corniche Road spray silly string and shaving cream at passersby, who shoot at them in return:

In fact, I think it’s possible that silly string might have uses in diplomatic situations as a negotiating tool and/or ice-breaking device. As we walked along the beach, the boys were “string attacking” each other, when suddenly they were ambushed by a man who’d been sitting quietly on the sand with his family:

Within a few minutes of the ambush, total strangers were dancing around with one another, dodging the brightly colored string lofting through the air:

It was a veritable world harmony moment, brought to you courtesy of silly string and shaving cream: world peace, wafted in on a billow of menthol-scented freshness.

Continue Reading · on December 8, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, expat, Kids, UAE

Saturday’s Snapshot (surat al-sabat): لقطة السبت

It’s National Day on Sunday and the city ablaze with celebratory lights, streamers, and of course, decorated cars. We’ll go walking on the Corniche on Sunday to watch the festivities, spray silly string, and watch the jets fly in formation with colored smoke creating vaporous UAE images in the sky.

Today, however, I got a personal message from the Crown Prince whoops, from the ruler of Dubai {thanks Matty} wishing me a happy National Day.

Well,I guess the message is personal in the same way I got all those BFF messages from Beyonce and Jay-Z during the Presidential campaign. You know, they never returned my calls? Sheesh.

So. Happy National Day to all, from me and hizzoner.

Continue Reading · on December 2, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, surat al-sabt saturday snapshot, UAE

whether there’s weather

We had plans with another family today to go out to Saadiyat Island , which is about fifteen minutes from downtown Abu Dhabi, but feels worlds away: big empty beach, no tall buildings, very few people.

I woke up this morning to this:

I’ve seen the iPhone iOracle predict clouds for Abu Dhabi; I’ve seen it predict flames licking the roof of hell, in late July, when the temperatures go upwards of 45C, 46C, 47C (112, 113, 114); but I’ve never seen it predict rain.

And after my sleep-fogged brain realized it was looking at a forecast for rain, I realized what the noise was outside my still-shaded windows: rain, splattering against the glass.

Ah the irony, right? The one day in months and months we actually plan a beach day…oh how the weather gods must have chuckled.

But we had the last laugh. We braved the mist and clouds, and were rewarded for our efforts:

Lovely.  My reward for finishing NaBloPoMo – a blog post a day – and for honoring the promise I made to my mom, of keeping her company in going cheese-free. (Full disclosure: she fell of the wagon on election night, when it was clear the good guys were going to win; and I had one little run-in with a gooey, stinky, rosemary-wrapped Boucheron. But mostly we stayed off the hard stuff.)  Not sure why, in the long run, we went cheese-free, but at least we proved to ourselves that we can, in fact, live without cheese. Life just isn’t quite as interesting.

Driving home from the beach, we saw all decorations up for National Day:  the city’s buildings are wrapped in lights and the cars are wrapped in images of Sheikh Zayed and the colors of the UAE flag – it’s all very festive and vaguely Christmasy because of the red and green everywhere. The country is a whopping 41 years old on Sunday and people are planning picnics and parades in celebration.

I just hope it doesn’t rain.


Continue Reading · on November 30, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, NaBloPoMo, UAE

National Day: The Big Four-Oh

Today, December 2, is the 40th anniversary of the founding of the United Arab Emirates.  Before this historic union, the various tribes (each of whom would come to govern an emirate) were busy trying to kill each other, take each others’ camels, pearls, and women (in descending order of importance, duh), and generally not getting along.

I’ve been thinking today about being in the United States on its 40th anniversary. What do you suppose these post-colonials did to celebrate their historic break-up with George III?  In 1816, the US would’ve been recovering from the War of 1812. Maybe there would have been, what, readings of the constitution? Mugs of hard cider or ale passed around? Dancing in the town square? Do you suppose anyone painted a picture of the US flag on his wagon, or on the side of his barn?

The union of the Arab States, formerly known as the Trucial States (because they’d formed a truce with Britain), marked a seismic shift in this part of the world. For the first time, these warring tribes would figure out how to work together. Led by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nayhan, seven sheikhs came together to create a new entity, independent from the British. These seven countries–Sharjah, Dubai, Ras-al-Kaimah, Abu Dhabi, Fujeirah, Umm al-Qaiwaim, Ajman–form the UAE; Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain all opted out of the union. Sheikh Zayed, who was by all accounts a fairly remarkable man, brokered the deal that led to the British ceasing to govern but continuing to work the newly discovered oil fields (and tithing a very high percentage of their oil contracts to the new country).

Zayed became the first ruler of the UAE; he’s like George Washington and King Arthur rolled into one. But unlike those national icons, who have been dead for centuries, Zayed only died in 2004, after governing for almost thirty years. He’s a legend who people here have worked with, who still exists in popular memory. Abu Dhabi and the UAE itself are incredibly young entities: everything I see as I walk on the streets has been built in the last half-century.  And yet, of course, this part of the world and the religion that undergirds everything  are incredibly ancient.

This juxtaposition (which is sometimes a collision) of the very old and the very new explains why I can be in the parking lot of the huge sports complex where my kids play soccer and see this car, dressed up to celebrate National Day:

But then as I rounded the corner of the car, heading back to the soccer fields, I almost tripped over the driver of the car, who had his prayer mat out on the pavement and was bowing in the direction of Mecca. I stuffed my camera behind my back so he wouldn’t think I was intruding on his privacy, and walked in the other direction.

Just as with any big decade marker, this birthday is being marked with quite a bash: Air Force planes doing maneuvers over the beaches; huge count-down clocks, flags flying from every conceivable vantage point, pageants in all the schools, fireworks for several nights in a row, buildings lit up in a way that would rival anything in Las Vegas.

Appropriately for a country whose primary source of revenue comes from oil, cars seem to be a key aspect of this celebration. The attention to car-decor here puts the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York to shame. We’re talking cars with feather boas, cars with tulle bows, cars with christmas tree lights webbed across the back window.  And spread across windshields, car doors, rooftops, hoods: the faces of Zayed and his two sons: Muhammed, who is the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi; and Khalifa, who is the current ruler of the UAE:

The image on the back windshield is of the seven sheikhs on the day of unification.

Khalifa, Zayed with his beloved falcons, and the current leader of the military…on a Chevy.

A boa-car, one of my favorites.  I have no idea why there are stuffed bears in the backseat, but we saw those bears everywhere, even popping out of the sunroof a Porsche Cayenne (which are as common as mini-vans around here; like the Dodge Caravans of the UAE).

It’s a young country. Maybe that’s why right now, as I’m writing this, all I can hear is the sound of car horns, air horns, cars backfiring (apparently drivers do this on purpose to add to the general sense of joyful mayhem. Well…a little bit joyful mayhem and a little bit like being under siege. Youth might also explain the celebratory attacks of shaving cream and silly string being exchanged up and down the Corniche and from car to car: passengers standing up in the sunroof, firing water pistols of shaving cream at the cars around them; spectators spraying silly string at the cars; no one was exempt.  Groups of demure abaya-clad women, in sparkly headscarves, were roving the corniche in packs, each woman with two cans of silly string tucked into her draping sleeves.  They would whip out their cans–pfffffftttt–and then dash off into the crowd, cackling with glee.

I suppose that if silly string had been invented in 1816, even James Madison would’ve sprayed some around the White House to celebrate the fact that against all odds, the U.S. hadn’t imploded. Maybe he even would’ve danced around a bit, like these guys, who were doing some kind of complicated dance that revolved in a circle around several drummers. They were all shouting and clapping and having a marvelous time celebrating this momentous anniversary…although I think they were all from Pakistan.

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Continue Reading · on December 2, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Discoveries, environment, expat, street notes, UAE

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