Dubai: Norwegians in Dubai had double reason to celebrate this week as their national day followed Norway's victory in the Eurovision Song Contest.
The Norwegian Seamen's Centre on Oud Metha Road was awash with red, white and blue on Sunday as around 200 Norwegian expats gathered to mark the 195th anniversary of Norway's declaration of independence.
Traditional fare including polser (hot dog), lapskaus (Norwegian stew) and vaffel (waffles) was served while Norwegian schoolchildren delivered speeches interspersed with various musical interludes. Guests were also shown a clip of Norway's triumphant Eurovision act, Alexander Rybak. The 23-year-old fiddler gained the most points in Eurovision's 53-year-history with his performance of "Fairytale" in Moscow on Saturday evening.
Per A. Dalland, Consul of Norway in Dubai, said: "Every year on May 17, Norwegians around the world gather to celebrate our country's independence, freedom and democracy. Children are an integral part of the day's celebrations and that is why you see so many youngsters here today either performing, speaking, or taking part in the parade.
"The celebration is of a non-military nature; it is conducted in a peaceful harmony and this is the heritage we have to take care of. The children are the future of Norway, so we try and make them aware of our heritage through song and speech."
It is estimated there are between 1,500-2,000 Norwegians living in the UAE, with the majority employed in the shipping, oil and gas, and painting industries. Norwegian children attend various different international schools but also have the option to attend a special Norwegian school, which runs once a week and provides lessons on the country's culture, language and history.
Brigt Sigve Skeie, general manager of The Norwegian Seamen's Centre, said: "We are a social club for all Scandinavians and we organise various different activities throughout the year. For example, we hold a business lunch once a week and, every Tuesday, we host a sports club for children between the ages of five and eight.
"We also help to arrange weddings in the UAE; last year we helped to organise 60 weddings involving either Norwegian residents or tourists. Furthermore, we have close links with our Norwegian counterparts across the region including Iran and Qatar."