52nd UAE Union Day show: Mesmerising performance showcases nation's past, present and future

Inviting the world to unite in the fight against climate change, the fully immersive program saw the participation of over 7,000 people


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Sat 2 Dec 2023, 8:32 PM

Last updated: Sun 3 Dec 2023, 2:48 PM

Telling the history of the UAE through the traditional art of Sadu and showcasing its commitment to sustainability, the official 52nd UAE Union Day show was staged at Expo City in front of world leaders and global delegates participating in COP28.

Inviting the world to unite in the fight against climate change, the fully immersive programme saw the participation of over 7,000 people, who began rehearsing for it in April 2023.

Sadu, the traditional weaving art of the UAE, is a highly honoured craft that shows the ingenuity and creativity of the country’s Bedouin ancestors. It was added to UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in Need of Urgent Safeguarding in 2011.

Split into five acts, the mesmerizing 30-minute performance presented in both English and Arabic took spectators on a journey through the past, present and future of the UAE while also introducing them to some actionists who are impacting the world with their work. Viewers sat in the middle as the stage revolved around them. A live orchestra played the music, composed by Mohamed Al Ahmed.

In a nod to sustainability, fireworks were omitted from this year’s performance and instead, reusable props were used. Moreover, sustainable materials were used in the construction of the stage. Last year’s theme song was also reused in the finale of the act to drive home the message.

Here is a brief look how the program unfolded:

Scene 1: Union of Hope

Founding story of the UAE

Beginning with a traditional folk song that Emiratis sing when doing the traditional art of Sadu, the act introduces viewers to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. When he founded the UAE, the conservation of both culture and nature were of utmost importance to him. These values were retained by the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who threaded them with modern innovations. Today, UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan carries the legacy towards a prosperous, sustainable future for our land.

An artisan wearing the traditional Emirati face covering is shown doing the Sadu craft.

A live military salute is also shown during this act.

Scene 2: Nature’s beauty

This act introduces viewers to actionists who are crafting their own path of sustainability with their work. The most compelling part of this act is the performance by acrobats who perform gravity-defying acts.

Emirati plant ecologist Maitha Al Mansoori talks about how the future ready to be woven. She brings a fresh perspective and a deep sense of focus to her work, and the acrobats around her illustrate the courage that it takes to be truly imaginative. She explains how a new future becomes possible when everyone works together.

The youth of the UAE are the hope of the nation, and they show great promise for the future. They see nature as a global network, unrestricted by borders.

Th act also introduces several school students who were asked to prepare dioramas based on their own interpretations of their surrounding landscapes. This was in an effort to help the youth of today understand that in order to protect one part of the natural environment, everyone must nurture all of it.

Scene 3: Navigating Climate Shift Together

The scene is set with performers standing on ladders as the sea, rain and snow lash around them. Everyone climbs their ladder and escape through a hole in the roof except one performer. Soon, two hands appear to rescue him. This is to depict that climate shift can be navigated only if everyone supports each other.

After this, the performers appear on top of the stage, doing a beautiful, specially choreographed dance. Sadeck Berrabah choreographed this whole performance based on only three words- innovation, together, and collaboration.

Scene 4: Actioning innovation

The Sadu weaver makes a comeback in this scene. But, it is a weaver from the second generation. Her prints are slightly different and the traditional craft evolves. The weave started in black-and-white then moved to muted, natural colours as technology evolved to extract colours from local plants such as henna, turmeric, saffron, cacti, and the indigo plants.

This is to show that changemakers and actionists add their own expertise and perspectives to existing knowledge. The act then turns the spotlight on local and international actionists who are making an impact on the world.

Scene 5: Progress to global unity

The last and final scene focuses on the youth of the country. The Sadu is back but this time, it is the third generation of weavers and depicts colourful, creative and fun designs.

It shows the youngsters of the country learning their traditional crafts, along with modern technology and science. A young performer dances alongside a robotic arm, at one point climbing on top of the arm and performing stunts.

“From north to south, from east to west, the luminous threads of our ancestors continue to light the way forward,” the young performer said. The act shows how the youngsters of the country are inspired by the hopes and dreams of the country.

During the finale, the performers hold up reusable props while on the sides of the stage, instead of using fireworks. Several SDGs are listed on the screen. The show concludes with several people holding up the UAE flag as the theme song plays.

Where to watch

The public in the UAE will be able to attend the show that will run for eight days from December 5 to 12 at Expo City’s Jubilee Park. Tickets can be purchased through the official UAE Union Day website.


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