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Rashid Abdulla Al Qaseer, Deputy Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dubai Office, US Ambassador to UAE, Martina Strong (left) and Consul General Meghan Gregonis at the United States National Day celebrations in Dubai. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: The early official celebration of the 248th Independence Day of the US in Dubai on Thursday night saw hundreds of US expats and friends of America celebrating everything American and the country’s friendship with the UAE.

Though the Americans commemorate the passage of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, the diplomatic missions in the UAE hold the official celebrations of the National Day in advance considering the summer weather in July when many American expats are away on vacation.

At the National Day reception hosted by the US Consulate in Dubai, top US diplomats and American expats celebrated their country’s achievements in various fields and its warm ties with the UAE.

Rashid Abdulla Al Qaseer, deputy director of the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Dubai, was the chief guest at the event.

Speaking on the occasion, the US Ambassador to the UAE, Martina Strong, hailed UAE-US relations and the contributions of the 55,000 strong American expat community here.

Highlighting the long-standing cooperation between the two countries, especially in innovation, the Ambassador acknowledged the pivotal role played by American companies and professionals in the UAE’s development.

“When it comes to innovation, what really embodies the cooperation between our two countries are the many partnerships that we have forged along the way over 60 plus years of cooperation,” she said.

She traced this cooperation back to 1961 when the first US company, ConocoPhillips, arrived in Dubai, followed by many others. Emphasising the enduring theme of cooperation, Strong underscored the shared objectives of peace, security, and prosperity.

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US Ambassador to UAE, Martina Strong addressing guests at the United States National Day celebrations in Dubai. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

The Ambassador also praised joint efforts in various fields, including science, space exploration, and education. Highlighting the importance of people-to-people ties, cultural exchanges, and environmental cooperation, she took the opportunity to applaud the UAE’s leadership in the success of hosting COP28.

As members of the Artemis Accords, she said the US is collaborating with the UAE to advance space exploration. “We are working together with the UAE to return people to the Moon.”

Additionally, she applauded the longest Arab space mission by UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs and astronaut Dr Sultan Al Neyadi and the recent agreement between Nasa and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre to develop a key component of the Lunar Gateway, humanity’s first space station orbiting the Moon.

Looking ahead, she expressed optimism about the future of the partnership and reiterated the commitment to further strengthen ties between the two nations.

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Consul General Meghan Gregonis addressing guests at the United States National Day celebrations in Dubai. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

The Future is Now

Delivering a portion of her speech in Arabic, the US Consul General in Dubai Meghan Gregonis welcomed the guests to “an evening of innovation” citing that the event celebrated innovation under the theme “The Future is Now” in February, which is observed as the Innovation Month in the UAE.

“As you noticed, we started the evening with one of our oldest customs, the colour guard, a military tradition, dating back to the founding of our country. And as we honour the traditions of the past, we set our sights firmly on the future.”

She was referring to the colour guard presented by the US Marine Corps Security Guards at the consulate in Dubai.

Highlighting the strong partnerships between the UAE and the US, Gregonis said: “As you can see, the theme this evening is the Future is Now which we believe perfectly captures the spirit of the UAE and the dynamic emirates we call home.”

Everything American

The event offered ample opportunities for the guests to try everything American — from premium chocolates and various American delicacies to high end cars and luxury furniture. The Consul General encouraged the visitors to explore the showcased innovations and explore the American culture — from experiencing the comfort of American-made furniture to trying their hands at American pastime, baseball.

She said the high-tech products exhibited by top-notch US companies offered “a glimpse of the groundbreaking innovation that continues to drive the dynamic US-UAE partnership to the newest frontiers of AI, quantum computing, space, climate and sustainability tech, agricultural technology and beyond.”

Lands of opportunities

Julianne Kailihiwa, an American expat in Dubai, was excited to attend the US National Day in Dubai for the first time. “We started our business here 24 years ago. It’s our second home now. While not many Americans used to know about the UAE a few decades ago, it is now in the bucket list of travellers. Just like the US, the UAE is known as a land of opportunities and it is great to be here in this event, celebrating our countries and bringing both worlds together.”

However, this has been an annual affair for long-term resident Elias Boutros Sayah, a Lebanese-American who came to the UAE 54 years ago. “When people ask me my nationality, I say Lebanese by birth, American by citizenship and the UAE by heart. It’s a happy coincidence that I reached Abu Dhabi on February 22, 1970, exactly 54 years ago. I have seen all the growth that the UAE has seen since then and I do appreciate the strong relationship and the partnership that the UAE has with the USA. We really thank the UAE and its leaders for their strong support.”

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US Ambassador to UAE, Martina Strong wiith members of air force band at the United States National Day celebrations in Dubai. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Community camaraderie

Many Emiratis were present to celebrate the occasion, demonstrating the camaraderie between the two communities.

For Jamil Al Hashimi attending the event brought back memories of the years spent in US while studying there and the times he visited the US later.

“I studied at the University of Denver for four years for my graduation. Being here brings back the memories of my life in the US and the times I had been there later. I particularly appreciate the vibrancy of the American community.”

His friend and Emirati businessman, Yaqoob Al Ai, said he does not miss the annual event. “Every year, we are here with them. We are happy to be present here, wishing them a Happy National Day.”

Friends of the US from various nationalities and various walks of life also attended the event. Shamlal Ahamed, managing director of a company in Dubai, said he was happy to join the celebrations and inform the Ambassador about his company’s expansion plan in the US which would offer 300 job opportunities.

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Marine Corps performing Colour Guard ceremony at the begining of United States National Day celebrations in Dubai. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

US Marine

Apart from the ‘marching on and marching off the colours’ by members of the US Marine Corps Security Guards, there were special performances by members of the US Air Force Band, who flew in from Qatar, and national anthems by the choir of American School of Dubai. The missions also gave away copies of a book titled “USA-UAE: 50 Years in Partnership,” a collection showcasing 50 photographs that recall notable people, moments and events in the bilateral relations since 1971.

This year’s National Day held special significance as it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the perminanet establishment of the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi. The embassy’s national day celebrations took place on February 20 in Abu Dhabi.