Emirati Ali Al Alavi and his children wave the national flags during the celebrations. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Thousands of people witnessed the official 47th National Day celebrations on Sunday evening in Abu Dhabi at Zayed Sports City Stadium with a series of visual entertainment honouring the life and achievements of the UAE’s founding father. The added flavour to this year’s National Day celebrations is that it coincides with Shaikh Zayed’s birth centenary.

Emirati and expatriate families with their children began flocking the stadium from 3pm. Children, waving flags, were attired in national colours, while men sported mufflers of national colours.

Citizens and residents watch National Day celebrations at Zayed Sports City last night. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

More than 22,000 people gathered at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi — the venue for this year’s official celebration.

Speaking to Gulf News at the stadium, Saif Al Shehhi, Emirati who came from Ras Al Khaimah along with his family and children, said, “the life today we are living here is the result of efforts of Baba Zayed. Now our children live a peaceful life with great education and health care all because of him.”

“Now it’s our duty to preserve it and serve the nation,” he said.

Another Emirati from Abu Dhabi, Abdul Rahman, said, “There was nothing in the UAE and it’s the vision of Shaikh Zayed who united all seven Emirates and put the country on the path of success and prosperity.

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David King Image Credit: Gulf News

Ceremonies started with Zuma Al Qubaisi’s long poetic appreciation and achievements of Shaikh Zayed and the Rulers of the UAE. The 47th National Day was celebrated in spectacular fashion at the stadium, with stunning visual displays, live musical shows, and over a thousand performers entertaining the crowd.

One of the most spectacular shows was that which depicted the struggle of a bunch of engineers with limited tools excavating and discovering oil, which eventually led to the unification of the UAE. The entire stadium burst with crackers, light streams and applause.

Struggles of the past in the barren deserts were highlights of the celebrations.

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Abdul Rahman Image Credit: Gulf News

The ceremony was held under the patronage of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and was attended by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Their Highnesses Supreme Council Members and Rulers of other emirates.

The celebrations also paid tribute to the foundation of the union at Saih As Sidirah, when Shaikh Zayed forged a new path for the future of the seven emirates of the UAE with Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the then Dubai Ruler.

LED show at Burj khalifa on UAE National Day Video by: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

British national David King, 52, who came to watch the event with his family, said “the UAE is all because of Shaikh Zayed’s vision who transformed the country into a world class country.”

“I have been living here for 21 years but I don’t want to go back it’s one of the best countries to live in peacefully. Truly I find it the best place to live, that’s why my children are here and living and practicing our religion.” King said, who came with his son in a stroller and his wife.

“When I came 21 years ago to Dubai, no developments were there like today, but a vision of the man, Shaikh Zayed it changed whole country,” he said.