DUBAI United Arab Emirates—Thousands of young Arabs, dressed in traditional Bedouin attire, took to the streets in 4X4s and Hummers decorated with their national flag, in a mark of defiance against the storm of international criticism that has engulfed their beloved homeland.
Cars bedecked with flags, scarves, and stickers bearing the faces of Sheikhs, cruised up and down Jumeirah Beach Road in Dubai, to mark the 38th anniversary of the founding of the United Arab Emirates on Dec 2.
The last week has seen the Gulf state, and in particular the Emirate of Dubai, become the cause of international panic after state-owned conglomerate Dubai World asked for a postponement on the repayment of its $59 billion debt.
Rashid bin Kamal, a native Emirati who decorated his car with love hearts in the color of his country’s flag, said that this year’s celebrations were especially relevant.
“Every year we celebrate in this way, but this year it’s especially important,” he said. “We need to show the world that we believe in this country, and we are proud of its successes.”
The sentiment of defiance was also strong in the national press, with most newspapers devoting their front pages to statements from offended national leaders.
Dubai is largely an independent principality, but has relied heavily in recent months on the financial backing of its neighboring and rival Emirate Abu Dhabi—which controls 95 percent of the country’s oil resources.
In a recent speech to journalists, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, flatly told those speculating of a rift between the two emirates to “shut up.”
Although Abu Dhabi has been mostly silent on the international fallout from Dubai World’s decision, on Tuesday the ruler of the emirate, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is also the UAE president, rallied to Dubai’s defense.
“The UAE is stronger and better off, since our economy is fine and our society enjoys welfare,” he said.