National Day at Cranleigh

I’m skipping a Thanksgiving post to get right to posting pictures of the next holiday here in the Emirates: National Day. It’s actually tomorrow, December 2, but Adele’s school celebrated today. And their celebration was nothing short of AMAZING.

National Day celebrates the unification of the seven emirates into one country under Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (his son, Sheikh Khalifa, is currently the president) in 1971. Tomorrow is the 43rd National Day and people here go cuckoo for it. The colors of the flag (red, green, black and white) are everywhere and so are pictures of the ruling family (I mean, there are giant, imposing pictures of them all over already, but now there are even MORE). I’ve heard that the most popular way to celebrate National Day is to get in your car and drive along the Corniche and people pimp out their vehicles. I’ve also heard that you should avoid driving along the Corniche at all costs around National Day, because it turns into a utter traffic standstill. There will also be concerts and fireworks all over the country, but we’re probably going to stay inside, because I’m already traumatized Adele is a little sick.

Adele stayed home from school yesterday, but there was no way she was going to miss this really special day at school, so she went (although under any lesser circumstances, I would have kept her home). Parents were invited to join their children in the classroom at 11 and take them to the sports field (or, pitch, if I’m being all Britishy) where there were several activities and booths set up. Each of the class years had an allotted time outside, so we didn’t have to deal with any of the older kids pushing the little ones out of the way.

Here are some of the school’s decorations (I really wish I had my camera out earlier to capture some of the cars in the parking lot):




This is a dhow, a traditional boat in the region

This was the first day at Cranleigh when the uniform was not required (and they are SERIOUS about their uniform; we keep getting emails that say, “I’ve noticed that girls are not wearing their Cranleigh-approved blue hair ties and are instead wearing bows! Pink bows! Ohhh, those degenerate Jezebels.”). Students could wear either national dress (abayas for the girls, kanduras for the boys) or any of the flag colors. All of the hypermarkets have had their National Day displays up for a while and there were a myriad of over-the-top chintzy clothing options, including dirndl-like dresses in flag colors, flag-colored tutus, tiaras, temporary face tattoos, etc. Somehow, I resisted buying a single thing. Like, seriously, I don’t actually know how I resisted. Next year will probably be different.

We dressed both girls in the appropriate colors and I smeared glitter glue on Adele’s face (yes, glue, because that’s what I happened to have leftover from Thanksgiving crafts):


Here are some of her classmates:







When we met up with them in class, they had been working on several themed-crafts, including an awesome gold glitter camel (not yet pictured, because it was on the drying rack), tissue paper flags, and henna drawings:



After picking up Adele, we headed out to the field, not really knowing what to expect. It was an Emirati extravaganza! There were animals:


Falconry is very popular among the ruling class


Jeff has a serious conversation with the camel

Jeff has a serious conversation with the camel

There were also horseback rides, but while we were in line, the horse started bucking a child off, so we thought, mmm, not gonna let our kids on that horse. Sorry.

There were some sporting activities just for fun, like potato sack races and tug-of-war, but Adele was so out of it (knackered! look how British I am!) from her cold that she could only manage stumbling around. We did get her on a seesaw (from the heritage museum, so I guess it’s a historical Arabian seesaw?), which she enjoyed, but May went wild for:




We were told that we could bring a picnic lunch to eat outside, which we did, but then there were long tables with tea sandwiches and traditional Emirati food, which was TO DIE FOR, especially this lamb rice dish, which I believe is called machboos:


Here we are picnicking with Adele's friend and classmate Yasmin, whose mother is Brazilian and father is Swedish/Iranian. Believe it or not, Amazon Adele is actually a month younger than lil Yasmin!

Here we are picnicking with Adele’s friend and classmate Yasmin, whose mother is Brazilian and father is Swedish/Iranian. Believe it or not, Amazon Adele is actually a month younger than lil Yasmin!

Fellow NYU mom Saba and her twins Nyla and Shazia

Fellow NYU mom Saba and her twins Nyla and Shazia

There were also women making ligamat (little fried balls of dough sweetened with honey or date syrup):


And coffee and tea served out of a gold vessel, which makes it taste better:


There was a guess-the-date game:


Adele properly identified medjool dates and won a prize

And the kids could roll dates in chocolate and cover them with a variety of toppings:

My friend Katrin's son Florian

My friend Katrin’s son Florian

There were tents all over the great lawn with a variety of crafts, ranging from the traditional, like henna, to the whimsical, like diy burqas, learn to write your name in Arabic, and pom poms:



Avalon watches Adele get henna, and in the background was a pearl necklace making station

Avalon watches Adele get henna, and in the background was a pearl necklace making station



Adele would be written اديل and Laura لورا

I was really inspired by all the rugs and poufs that they had decorating the space that I need to go buy some asap. My apartment is so bland and white and personality-less right now. It needs poufs.


As good a family shot as we're going to get with one sick child and one pretending-to-be-shy child

As good a family shot as we’re going to get with one sad-because-she’s-sick child and one pretending-to-be-shy child

Despite Adele’s cold, it was a fabulous afternoon. The school did a truly excellent job bringing the Emirati traditions to life in a child-accessible way.

Adele and her teacher, Mrs. Peripoli!

Adele and her beloved teacher, Mrs. Peripoli!

Now Adele has three days off from school for the holiday and that will lead right into the weekend, so she really has a luxurious five day vacation. We’ll probably just stay around the house to avoid the insanity of downtown during the holiday, but do Christmas crafts and reading and baking.

I saved my absolute favorite picture for last. It is shockingly not of one of my own children. This was just a girl that we saw at school today and her beauty took my breath away!



4 thoughts on “National Day at Cranleigh

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