Thursday, December 1, 2011

At KG - UAE National Day

Abby went with me to my school's National Day celebration.
We are in the midst of celebrating our second National Day in the UAE, and it's quite a party! The United Arab Emirates has only been a country for 40 years as of today. You can see the excitement and effort that has gone into the celebration preparations. It's quite a job to make the many families, tribes, and ethnic groups here feel like a unified group. That has been the chant- one people, one nation- that the kids are being taught at school. I find it so interesting. It makes me wonder how similar the efforts were in the United States when it was only 40 years old, and people who had immigrated from many different countries and had allegiance to the states they lived in were becoming one people.

We've been celebrating for more than a week at school. It started with special "corners" (centers) that were decorated for each of the seven emirates that make up the UAE. The children spent time in each corner, learning about the emirate and making a craft related to it. They also practiced marching into the gym to form a UAE flag with their red, green, black and white shirts on. Also, several groups of students practiced for short presentations. On Tuesday, the big party was held in the gym. Mothers were invited and attended in huge numbers, along with their other children, both younger and older siblings of our students.

The decorations were almost overwhelming. Strings of flags, in the national colors, were everywhere, as were pictures of the current sheikh, his father (Sheikh Zayed, the father of the country), and the brother of the current sheikh, who is the crown prince. The students came in a myriad of outfits, from traditional Emirati dress, to the latest western fashion, to military outfits for the boys. I loved the young girls in their embroidered jellabiyas with gold in their hair, on their ears, and around their necks. The western dresses were frilly chiffon and satin in every color, and there were also dresses made just for the day in the national colors. Their mothers were all in their abayas, but the decoration on the abayas signaled the festivity of the occasion. They sparkled in many colors on the sleeves, around the hem, and on the edges of the shaylas. I had a jellabiya made for the party, and Abby wore a tunic and leggings in red and black. She had ribbons of red, black, green, and white in her hair.

During the show, food was available for sale in the hall. We could buy khoshary, an Egyptian macaroni and rice with a spicy red sauce on it, or UAE-style lasagna, made with random pasta instead of just flat lasagna noodles, or balaleet, noodles with egg flavored with cardamom and a bit sweet. There were also french fries, chips, and oreos.

The show went on for most of the day, from 9:30 until 12:30. The kids who were not chosen to be in the presentations had a really hard time sitting through it, and much of the time the gym was a scene of chaos, with children moving about at will or standing on chairs to see or mothers looking for their kids. Some of the shows caught the students' attention, especially the "wedding scene," a presentation about Emirati wedding traditions, complete with small male guests twirling rifles with mustaches painted on their faces and small female guests in elaborate dresses. At the end, everyone ended up dancing. It was good fun, as disorganized as it was.

I love being here for the outpouring of patriotism and goodwill on National Day. Happy birthday, UAE!

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