Each year, December 2nd commemorates the unification of the United Arab Emirates. However, 2021 is a particularly special moment as it marks 50 years since the country’s founding in 1971.
In honor of this historic milestone, UAE President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan declared 2021 as the “Year of the 50th.” Also known as the UAE’s Golden Jubilee, this national holiday not only celebrated the last five decades but called on UAE citizens to come together and plan for the bright future ahead.
The UAE kicked off its 50th birthday with a flag-raising ceremony at Al Wasl Plaza at Expo 2020 Dubai. Following the event, Emiratis were invited to attend a number of grand celebrations including an official National day Ceremony in Dubai’s scenic mountain town of Hatta.
Here in the United States, the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC hosted its very own celebration at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Led by Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, the National Day event drew over 250 guests including top US government officials, Members of Congress, diplomats and business leaders.
Distinguished guests included US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, CIA Director Bill Burns, CIA Deputy Director David Cohen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Dana Stroul, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Benaim, US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking, Reps. Ted Deutch, Mike Waltz and Ro Khanna and Ambassador Michael Herzog.
During the event, Ambassador Al Otaiba reflected on the UAE’s incredible accomplishments alongside the US over the last year. This includes the UAE’s major contributions to combatting COVID-19 and addressing the global climate crisis. In addition, he highlighted the Emirates Mars Mission, the signing of the Abraham Accords, joining the UN Security Council and hosting the first World Expo in Middle East history.
In honor of these historic achievements, he paid tribute to the UAE’s beloved Founder and first President, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan. Also known as the “Father of the Nation,” Sheikh Zayed left behind a legacy that ultimately shaped the UAE into the prosperous country it is today.
Moreover, Ambassador Al Otaiba reiterated, “Sheikh Zayed instilled the values of tolerance, inclusion and solidarity that remain a pillar to our way of life. He knew that the UAE’s place in the world would be shaped by experiences and values that made life in the desert possible: cooperation, resilience and generosity.”
Following his commemorative speech, the UAE Embassy featured several different Year of the 50th initiatives. This included an exhibition titled “50 Years in Partnership,” which showcased the UAE’s historic alliance with the US through 50 photographs. The project was held in partnership with the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the embassy’s long-time friend, the Meridian International Center.
In addition, the UAE Embassy featured its very own Golden Jubilee project known as “50 years | 50 faces.” The storytelling campaign was launched this past October in an effort to capture the UAE-US alliance through 50 unique and personal stories. So far, the project has featured fascinating narratives and anecdotes by numerous Emiratis and Americans, including leaders Ambassador Al Otaiba and former US President George W. Bush.