Several universities in the UAE began their National Day celebrations a week in advance with cultural and entertainment events as well as Emirati cuisine.

Dubai Men's College

The applause was louder, the smiles bigger and there was more colour in the hall and entrance of the main building. Dubai Men's College (DMC) students received guests, friends and other students who came to celebrate the 37th commemoration of UAE's National Day.

A huge flag bearing the name of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and the signatures of all the college students was hung up at the entrance, facing a small tent specially set up for the occasion.

The day comprised several entertainment and cultural activities, which students had planned earlier. Judging from the loud applause and laughter, the most entertaining shows were the songs sung by two students and a student play.

The song that seemed to ignite the atmosphere in the main auditorium was sung by media student Mohammad Al Mannaei, whose mother wrote the song.

"We, we are the Emiratis; we form seven lighting candles; we came together for goodness and accomplished so much. Our pride is in our union and determination and our victory comes from God and the religion of Islam," he sang, to an audience that didn't stop clapping.

Al Mannaei said he is proud to be from Sharjah but that Dubai has a special place in the hearts of students, especially since DMC is based in this emirate.

The student play focused on how a student decides to leave his country only to return and rediscover his cultural heritage by dressing in the traditional kandoora and living according to the norms and traditions of the land.

Ali Ahmad and Abdullah Al Shaybani, foundation students at the college, helped organise the event. "National day is about heritage and celebrating the country we were born and grew up in," said Ahmad.

The Ministry of Social Affairs was represented on campus selling T-shirts, chocolate and other gadgets made by physically-challenged students. "The most important thing we feel today is that we are Emiratis and we are happy to be here," said Abir Rashed Zaid, a ministry representative.

Sharjah Men's College

Sharjah Men's College students decided to celebrate the occasion by travelling deep into the desert. They carried no mobile phones and were completely cut off from all the trappings of city life.

The group, which included eight UAE national students and two faculty left the shores of Dibba on November 22 and returned to their college campus last Thursday.

Abdul Rahman Abdul Jalil Bukhalaf, a mechanical engineering student, decided to go on the trip to discover more about his cultural heritage.

"I wanted to do what my grandfather used to do because it gives me pride. It was a nice experience but not bereft of difficulties. We went through different terrains and spent days in the desert, living through the sunrise and the sunset," he said.

During their journey, the group slaughtered sheep for food. "I was expecting it to be difficult but not this difficult," said Bukhalaf. Speaking about his parents' reaction, he said: "My parents were happy and proud so I just did it."

However, on the whole the students were happy with their adventure. "Living in the desert is better than living in the city in my opinion," said Bukhalaf. "The air is fresh, the food is clean and healthy and it is just so relaxing but also hard work."

Regarding National Day, Bukhalaf said: "If we don't serve our country, who will?"

Ahmad Khamis, a foundation student, described the trip as "fantastic". "There were some hard times when we had to climb mountains on the camel and ride through steep hills but it was fun and we truly worked as a team," he said, adding "As a national, it taught me how we are lucky nowadays to have all that technological advancement and luxury while our ancestors didn't have it so easy."

The camel trek was the highlight of the college's annual 'Mosaic' event and fell under the theme 'Proudly Emirati'.

The expedition leader, David Jenns, sports and health coordinator, said that the trip should inspire students to believe that nothing is impossible.

He said the trek proved to them how beautiful the UAE's terrain is and brought out some real leadership and team skills among the students.

Zayed University

Students at Zayed University Abu Dhabi Campus are busy planning innovative activities that express their loyalty and respect for Shaikh Zayed.

Their National Day activities include Emirati folk dances, poetry and competitions.

Vice-president of Zayed University Dr Sulaiman Al Jasem stressed the importance of such celebrations as they allow students to express respect, love and loyalty to the UAE and President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

He added: "While organising the National Day celebrations students drew their inspiration from the traditions, culture and heritage of the UAE, reflecting their appreciation for the efforts of the founder of the UAE, the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan."

Skyline University College

The college celebrated UAE National Day in a traditional way on November 27. The campus was decorated with flags and posters. The day coincided with the university's Ethnic Day and students were dressed in ethnic attire.

Traditional music was played on the campus lawn with students being invited to participate in traditional Emirati dances.

Traditional Emirati sweets and coffee was prepared and offered to students, staff and faculty members. UAE flags were also distributed to students.

Al Ain Women's College

First year diploma students at Al Ain Women's College organised this year's National Day Festival, portraying both the past and the present of the UAE. The celebration took place last Thursday.

The seven emirates took centrestage in student projects, which comprised displays and movies shown throughout the college. The ruling families, tourism, famous monuments and future plans were highlighted.

The Heritage Village was also busy with traditional activities such as traditional games, food, pottery, henna design, homemade women's accessories, perfumes and herbal medicine. A traditional wedding and "yola" dancing kept students and staff entertained throughout the day.

The AAWC Student Council Association held poetry reading, quizzes and a play. Students were divided into seven groups, each representing an emirate of the UAE.

"We presented education, the cultural heritage of the emirate, a family tree of the royal family and had other performances," Moza Al Amri, a business technology student, told Notes.

Nouf Mohammad Al Sharif said she felt excited and proud. "I am a daughter of this country; if it were not for this day, the seven emirates wouldn't have been one and we wouldn't have a reason to celebrate. This is a great accomplishment for our country."

American University in Dubai

The university held UAE National Night at AUD with cultural and artistic performances by Emirati and Khaleeji (Gulf) artists.

The event, held under the patronage of Shaikh Saeed Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, attracted students from schools and universities in the country.

Organised by the Khaleeji Cultural Club in association with the Dubai Shopping Festival Office, the ceremony began with the UAE National Anthem followed by a video filmed at various locations across the country. The film, displaying the richness of UAE heritage, received a standing ovation.

Abdullah Al Gergawi, Khaleeji Cultural Club president, emphasised the importance of a sense of "nationalism" among the youth.

He said: "UAE National Day is a celebration of the country's heritage. It sheds light on the young local talents and inspires the youth to become fervent advocates of community service and volunteer work."

He added: "The event is a customised information packet for expatriates to educate them on the country's customs and traditions."

Photographs on display showed the rich history and traditions of the UAE. Visitors were greeted by a UAE Majlis surrounded by live traditional cooking stations with entertainment being provided by UAE folk dance performers. In addition, traditional arts and crafts by local artists were displayed. Souks, falcon shows and camel rides were also part of the event.