UAE National Day celebrations: Dazzling Hatta show brings down curtains on last 50 years

The mind-blowing storytelling feat took viewers through the UAE’s tribal history, ancient technologies and the progress that followed

  
Fireworks 2 - By Nicolas Chavance, Groupe F, Larmac Live

Fireworks 2 - By Nicolas Chavance, Groupe F, Larmac Live

UAE Golden Jubilee Committee / Handout via Zawya

There was no better way to start the UAE’s journey to the next 50 years.

Hatta’s spectacular official ceremony gripped the nation on Thursday night.

UAE’s leaders came together in the majestic natural landscape of Hatta, a historical connecting point of tribes and caravans, to mark the country’s 50th National Day, as they confidently forge the way into the next five decades.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai; Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces; and several other rulers, deputy rulers and crown princes were in attendance.

The story of UAE's progress since the country's union unravelled before the leaders' eyes in an emotional visual scenery that paid tribute to the nation's founding fathers.

On the starry, breezy evening of December 2, eyes were fixed on a giant egg-shaped sculpture at the heart of a floating lake in the deep teal waters of Hatta Dam, housed by Hajjar Mountains.

Right before the viewers, the sculpture transformed into a masterpiece, painting the powerful story of the young nation in a 40-minute show that befits the historic milestone.

Stunning 3D projections, light displays and synchronised performances to gripping specially-composed music adorned the sculpture ahead of water screens and a colourful burst of drone-launched fireworks that lit up Hatta’s skies.

The mind-blowing storytelling feat took viewers through the UAE’s tribal history and ancient technologies, leading up to the moment of the union and the 50 years of progress that followed.

Thousands of citizens and residents, glued to their TV screens, watched the UAE’s journey unfold in its most exquisite form, igniting unparalleled patriotic fervour in everyone who calls the country home.

Using state-of-the-art technologies in a natural landscape, the show, open to the public from December 4-12, celebrates the harmonious relationship between humans, nature and technology that has long defined the UAE’s story, paving the way into greater frontiers.

As it happened

The National Day show began with men chanting across the mountains in a signal to the early communication of UAE tribes.

A single line soon breaks through the surface of the revolving sculpture, representing the first marks made by humans on the land and rising into shifting patterns of lines called “Wusoom” used by various ancient tribes to identify their livestock.

A projection of “Deira”, the earliest form of the UAE’s compass, and “Deirat Al Duroor”, the ancient astronomical system developed by ancestors to determine natural cycles, soon emerge on the sculpture as folklore poems echo across the mountains.

Moving calligraphy-designed projections of five powerful women who played an integral role in crafting the UAE’s story adorn the revolving sculpture’s back.

Viewers are introduced to the profiles of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s grandmother Sheikha Hessa bint Al Murr Al Falasi, the wife of Sheikh Zayed’s grandfather Sheikha Maitha bint Salmeen Al Mansoori and ending with the Mother of The Nation Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak.

One touching moment is the appearance of the late UAE founder Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s silhouette on top of the sculpture amid the fog, reminding audiences of the misty morning of February 1968 in Al Smeih area, where the idea of the union was born.

The silhouette overshadows a giant projection of the signatures of the seven leaders as engraved in the accord of the Union.

The iconic image of the seven founding fathers taken on December 2, 1971 appears on vibrant water projections.

Zayed beautified it

In a breathtaking tribute to Sheikh Zayed’s empowering vision of human development, the sculpture’s 3D projections reveal the transformation of old UAE desert and oases, punctuated with palm trees, into today’s ambitious architectural landmarks including Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, forts, wind towers and museums.

The sculpture revolves, featuring an emotional video display of Sheikh Zayed telling the crowd in tears: “I assure you and pledge my sincerity and earnestness in everything I do for our citizens, nation, children, and brethren.”

Rare archival images are then projected on the sculpture, marking key moments in the history of the nation till the present moment. Black and white footage shows early scenes of pearl diving, ports and bridges as well as recent achievements, such as the Hope Probe’s arrival to Mars and Expo 2020 Dubai.

These key moments throughout history represent the collective history of a nation carved in the memories of citizens and expats who have long coexisted and worked together for the development of the nation.

Towards the future

The last chapter of the show sparks young people’s dreams of tomorrow as the UAE heads towards a new era.

Three young girls take centre stage, representing the young versions of accomplished Emirati women writing letters to their future selves.

The girls are young Nora Al Matrooshi, today’s UAE's first Arab woman training to be an astronaut; Maitha Bu Ghunoom, PhD candidate focusing her research on Dugongs in Abu Dhabi; and Tufool Al Nuaimi, a leading data scientist who uses machine learning to provide data automation services to companies worldwide.

The unforgettable splendour was the outcome of one year of work from conceptualisation, research and meeting with elders to capture the UAE’s rich history to building the stage, setting sophisticated technologies and training performers.

More than 1,400 individuals from 100 nationalities were involved in the spectacle.

The show unites people who have been at the core of the UAE’s success towards a tech-advanced future, guided by the glory of the past and legacy of early dreamers. It sparks people’s imagination of a better tomorrow.

Thursday’s official ceremony was by invite only. Tickets to the must-see National Day show, open for the public from December 4-12, can be purchased on the official website www.uaenationalday.ae.

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