Dubai: Hundreds of US expats, diplomats and friends of the US from various countries came together to celebrate the American Independence Day months ahead of Fourth of July on Thursday night in Dubai.
The US missions in the UAE hosted a reception in celebration of 247 years of independence under the theme “Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Sustainable Future,” which is inspired by the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence and falls in line with the UAE’s ‘Year of Sustainability.’
Sentiments of nationhood and camaraderie between the Americans and their friends from the UAE and other countries were at the heart of the celebrations which saw people enjoying American music and food. For many, it was an occasion to get together for the Independence Day celebrations after years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Friends Frances Ames and Cara Marlowe were happy to be back to celebrate ‘the US and the UAE with a big group.’
“It is great to see some familiar faces and some new faces. It’s a great event. We’ve been here for a long time and we Americans are always happy to celebrate the US and as people who’ve adopted the UAE as home, it’s great to see everyone coming together,” said Ames, who is into asset management.
Emirati banking veteran Hassan Al Rais said: “I am one of the oldest members of the American Business Council in Dubai from the time it was in the World Trade Centre. I am also a US graduate, so I’m very much in touch with the American community here and I’m very happy to promote US education. I was always welcomed to celebrate all their festivals and events when I used to study there in Michigan and I really appreciate their friendship then and now.”
Doug and Betty Gambrell, an American couple in their sixties who are on a visit to their son’s family here, said it was their first experience to celebrate the US Independence Day in February.
“We visit here twice a year. But, we had never attended this event before. So, we are very excited to witness this,” said Betty. “We are happy anytime, anyone celebrates the US,” added Dough.
Why July 4 in Feb?
While the day is celebrated in July in the US, Sean Murphy, Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News that the missions here celebrate it in advance considering the summer weather in July when many American expats are away on vacation. He said around 50,000 Americans live in the UAE.
“So, we typically celebrate our national day in February which is the month that we celebrate what we call the Presidents’ Day, which is a commemoration of the birthday of our first president, George Washington, and our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln. So we’re taking advantage of the beautiful weather this time of the year in Dubai, and the proximity of those two very important birthdays in our history,” he said.
“I arrived in the UAE in August of 2020. And this is my first National Day celebration here. Obviously, we’re super happy to be able to celebrate our national day again, and most importantly, to do it together with our Emirati friends and colleagues and others.”
He said the traditional theme derived from the Declaration of Independence was modified to replace ‘happiness’ with ‘future’ during the Expo 2020 Dubai and it has now been modified as ‘sustainable future’ since the UAE is hosting COP 28 during the Year of Sustainability.
Meghan Gregonis, Consul General of the USA in Dubai, said: “We’re also focused on our innovation partnerships. So we’re very excited to spotlight some of those innovation partnerships and also to spotlight some of our unique American innovation,” she said.
The world’s largest vertical farm Bustanica, a joint venture of Emirates Flight Catering and American company Crop One and electric bikes from Harley-Davidson were showcased at the event as examples.
UAE Minister of Economy, Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri, was the guest of honour. “I think that’s really important because the trade relationship between the US and the UAE is incredibly important. It goes across countless sectors. It is very strong and it’s very deep and so it’s an opportunity to celebrate that as well,” said Gregonis.
“In addition to economic and trade partners here tonight, these are our friends. These are our friends across so many industries, companies and sectors. So it’s really wonderful to see all of our friends coming together tonight,” she added.
Pointing out that both the countries have made several accomplishments together, he said: “There is so much more that we can do together for the benefit of our people and the people of the world. Already with joint initiatives, such as the agricultural innovation, mission for climate change and the partnership for accelerating clean energy, we are working together to address climate change, food security and other most urgent challenges facing humanity … And with an Emirati astronaut about to launch on a historic mission in space on an American rocket, we have elevated a partnership that was forged through extraction of wealth from the depths of the earth, to one that now extends to the exploration and study of the movement of planets and the stars.”
The event saw ‘marching on and marching off the colours’ by members of the US Marine Corps Security Guards in Dubai, special performances by members of the US Air Force Band, who flew in from Qatar, and billionaire entrepreneur Ebraheem Al Samadi giving away customised memorabilia to hundreds of attendees.
“Being away from America, I felt that I’m not doing anything for my country. So this is my way of signifying our partnership together as an American citizen,” said Al Samadi.
A photo exhibition displaying 50 years of US-UAE relations was also held.