UAE Martyr’s Day and National Day
When Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the UAE, ordained the first Martyr’s Day to be held on the 30th of November this year, he made a powerful statement of his belief in positive nationalism. He wanted this week to be a commemoration for those who have given their lives in defence of the values of the nation, as well as a celebration of those values, and a glimpse at its future.
UAE Martyr’s Day (30th November)
In the words of the ruler himself, “We proclaim that they (martyrs) are brave people who wrote a new history and vanquished their enemies to bring victory, to defend against injustice and respond to the call of their leaders under all circumstances.
“On this great day, the UAE, its people and history commemorate those brave people who sacrificed their lives and hoisted its flag high. We and our brothers celebrate Commemoration Day with a new spirit in our country, in which we feel pride for those who sacrificed their lives to protect the security of their country and future of the region.”
There had long been a clamour within the UAE to hold a commemorative holiday for its dead, and while there had been displays for the fallen, there hadn’t been much sign that a new public holiday would be announced. The introduction of Martyr’s Day then heralded something greater, a show of positive patriotism commemorating both those that had fallen, as well as the values they sought to uphold. It was also a show of support to the families of those soldiers, who the president promised they would “take the utmost care of, responding to their needs for education, health, and other basic services, including a house with all modern amenities.”
UAE National Day (2nd December)
In 2015, the UAE celebrates it 44th birthday as an independent state. The day marks the UAE’s formal nationalisation from the British Protectorate Treaties which ended on December 1, 1971 and the eventual, federal unification of the seven emirates which combined to form the modern-day country, headed by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the federation’s first president.
It’s seen as both a coming together of the several different ethnicities and nationalities that make up the UAE (over 85% are expats) as well as a commemoration of the efforts that have transformed the country from desert backwater to one of the biggest business and tourist centres in the world. The UAE has grown at a rapid pace in almost every sector since its unification, with the last two decades particularly upping the pace of development to astronomic levels.
But the country doesn’t forget its past. On National Day, events are held at the Heritage Village for children and adults alike. There’s a National Day Parade that takes places in Downtown Dubai as well, showcasing the best of both Arab and global culture. On top of that, every Emirate holds their own events. Sharjah, for example, are planning a short opera narrating the story of the creation of the Union through to its success as one of the most developed countries in the region!
Both Martyr’s Day and National Day show the patriotism of Emiratis in different ways, either through sombre remembrance or celebratory joy. Both events are important in showcasing the emerging national identity of the UAE, and the pride of being a nation that strives for excellence in both the way it treats its citizens, as well as the ambition it shows to continue its rapid pace of progression.