Expats share National Day memories and stories - GulfToday

Expats share National Day memories and stories


Gautam Goenka and Abdel Wahab

“Many residents on social media are singing our national anthem and I want to confess to all viewers that when I heard you, by God, I shed a tear,” said the UAE President HH Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nayhan in his message to expats during the Covid crisis in 2020 who was emotionally moved by the love for the country shown even by expatriate residents.

Over 200 nationalities live in the UAE and call the nation their home. As the UAE celebrates its 51th National day, Gulf Today speaks to expats who were born and grew up in the UAE. Besides telling us how the UAE became their home away from home, they share their childhood memories in the country, their favourite Emirati food and how they celebrated National Day decades ago.

Syrian expatriate Abdel Wahab's late father came to the UAE in 1978 and worked as a mathematics teacher for 30 years. He was born in 1983 and has settled in Sharjah.

 “My school was full of different nationalities, we are like brothers till now. One of my unforgettable memories was  that we used to go in a big group to Al Mamzar Park and our friend Hamdan used pick us up in his Mercedes car, 1978 model. He would arrange food from a traditional local restaurant Khalid Huriah,.” said Abdel Wahab.

“When I was young, we celebrated National Day at school and in the evenings we used to go to Montazah Park Island and Khaled Lagoon to see fireworks and carnivals. My favourite Emirati food is Harees and it was always there during Ramadan," he recalled.

Indian expat, Gautam Goenka moved from India to the UAE with his parents in 1988.

“I was quite young, just coming to the first grade. I was excited to move to a new country at that age. I started school over here, a newly opened school which is now known as Gems Modern Academy. It was simpler times then, we lived in Bur Dubai – those were my initial days in the UAE. I love diversity of nationalities here it is great, it is one of the strengths of this country, where people from different parts of the world can live side by side harmoniously and work together and excel. That goes to the credit of leadership and Rulers of this country who make it a home and a welcoming country for expats.”

Gautam recalls how he celebrated National Day back then.

“It was a National Day ritual for my family to drive down to Abu Dhabi, see the fireworks and visit Corniche. I still have vivid memories of being there. The UAE has unique activities that one can't find back home like desert safari and camping. As the years progress I still remember several malls opening up, as a younger child I still remember going to places like Sinbad,” said Gautam.

“Growing up in the UAE my favourite local Emirati food is Regag, there are a number of coffees that are served with cheese or Oman chips.

"I have a number of friends here including Emiratis who have done university over here where we worked on projects in school and met outside as friends.”

Shereen Afifi


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