(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Marking the unification of the seven emirates since 1971, a wondrous display of patriotism, colour and traditions took over Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
From mega public gatherings and spectacular showcases to stunning art exhibitions, there was a lot in the UAE's Capital to celebrate this 47th National Day.
Throughout Abu Dhabi, people began their celebrations in the morning with souvenirs, flags, scarves and other National Day-themed items.
Others decided to use their vehicles to show their love for the country, decorating the hoods of their cars with the national symbols, colours and stickers bearing the faces of the country's leaders.
The ways in which residents celebrated were as diverse as the people themselves, but the common thread was that they were all united in their appreciation and love for the UAE.
At the Zayed Sports City Stadium, the venue for this year's official celebration, the events kicked off at 6:00pm with a live band performance.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and all the Supreme Council members and rulers of other emirates were all present at the official event.
Over 22,000 Emiratis and residents flocked to the stadium for the massive festival of colour, music and dance performances, stunning visual displays and interactive shows.
The official UAE National Day celebrations, 'This is Zayed. This is the UAE', was a big tribute to the nation's founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
Emirati poems and short films took people through a journey of the country's history and the life of Sheikh Zayed as a young man, who was a leader with a brilliant vision, a love of life, and a strong will to change the nation around him for the benefit of all.
The event also featured live performances from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, alongside 150 Emirati musicians, who sang and played masterpieces that have been specifically written for the celebration.
World-renowned artists from the UK, Egypt and other nations also performed and paid tribute to the 47 glorious years of national unity.
People were thrilled as they watched the highly anticipated 'Greening of the Desert' performance of 45 puppets, which included gazelles, flamingos, Arabian oryx, Houbara birds, a desert fox and a caracal. Puppeteers moved them around in a three-minute show that told the story of UAE's love of nature and its efforts in conservation.
The grand event also included a military demonstration, as well as a design show of UAE national costumes. Kandouras and women's dresses dating back to the '60s were paraded at the event.
Other festivities in Abu Dhabi
At the Abu Dhabi Corniche, people gathered to watch the airshow by Al Fursan aerobatic team, which started at 4:00pm.
Fireworks lighted up the skies at the Emirates Palace, Al Maryah Island and Yas Marina Circuit.
At Yas Waterworld, people enjoyed the annual Water Battle, where families held coloured water pistols and soaked each other at the Amwaj battle arena.
Yas Marina Circuit hosted a fun-filled day, entertaining families with live music, drift car shows, off-track entertainment and cultural experiences.
At Madinat Zayed Shopping Mall, at least 200 shop owners and staff - mostly Indians - wore 'Thank You UAE' T-shirts and cut a giant cake to mark the National Day and acknowledge the UAE leaders' support during the Kerala floods.
Major shopping malls across Abu Dhabi also organised various events for families and children.
What the day means to residents
"To me the National Day means unity, love and prosperity," said Dr Obeid Al Khatbi, an Emirati who came to the Zayed Sports City Stadium to take part in the official National Day celebrations.
"Since the Union, 47 years ago, the UAE has been moving forward and the love and brotherhood among its citizens has been enormous and growing stronger each day."
Al Khatbi, 55, added: "I thank the nation's great leaders and our grandparents for coming up with the idea of unity. The seven emirates becoming together has made our nation stronger and powerful in the region and worldwide."
Pakistani expat Tariq Mohammed, 51, said he celebrates the National Day with his family every year since the UAE has become his second home.
"This is a great day for me, having been here for so long. We fondly look back on the days when we celebrated the National Day on Abu Dhabi Corniche, with the roads decorated with wooden gates.
"To me, the UAE National Day means harmony and peace for all of us. We salute the nation and its leaders for their wisdom and the equal support they're providing to everyone in the UAE."
Indian expat Asiya Rafiq said she and her family always take December 2 as an opportunity to show their love for the country.
"This is a great nation that welcomes everyone. Being expats, we respect this day and showcase our love by dressing up in the colours of the UAE flag," said Rafiq.