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Postcard from... Abu Dhabi


There's only one way to celebrate National Day in the United Arab Emirates – and it's petrol fuelled, befitting a nation built on oil.

First comes the decoration of the family car or, more likely, cars. The rules are simple – the tackier and the more over the top, the better. The owner of one Toyota screeching down the main highway to Dubai had forked out for a diamante-studded portrait of Sheikh Zayed – the country's founder – plastered across his car's bonnet. Flowers, flags, and sheikhs are all popular adornments. A giant teddy bear strapped to the roof rack to show your national pride – why not?

Emiratis then take to the road to show off their work, causing the island city to come to a near standstill. Children waving flags hang out of the windows and sunroofs of the blinged SUVs as they crawl along.

Walking becomes the only way to travel if you want to get anywhere. Or horseback, as some young men get into the traditional Bedouin spirit and weave their Arabian thoroughbreds through the traffic.

Though the capital might embrace the mayhem, Dubai takes a harder line. This year it confiscated 88 cars and seven motorbikes for crimes including "parading without permission".