November 2nd, 2017 is UAE Flag Day – a celebration first launched by HH Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2013 to celebrate Sheikh Khalifa’s accession to the Presidency of the UAE.1
On this day, all ministries, and government bodies – in fact all people, Emirati and expatriate alike – raise the UAE flag at 11 am to show allegiance and unity with the UAE, its leadership and its founding fathers.
Flag day is an occasion to cherish. It’s also an excellent opportunity to ask ourselves what makes flags so important in general, and what makes the UAE flag particularly special.
Significance of Flags
It’s generally accepted that flags probably started out as relatively simple banners before evolving in shape and significance. Compared to other emblems, they were easy to make. They fluttered in the wind and attracted attention with their life-like motion. They were light to carry and easy to stow. Flags quickly became the method of choice for transmitting and communicating intentions, values and ideas.
Flags are powerful even outside the national context. The white flag is the universal sign of surrender, and green means safety while red invariably means danger. This nomenclature has been hardwired into human history and psychology, and creates visceral and instant reactions. Flags are far faster and more powerful a means of communication than putting up a written sign.
When performing national duty, flags are equally important. Their worth comes not from the material used to make them; nor from the aesthetics and art they are adorned with. In fact, most national flags are straightforward geometric affairs. Flags borrow their raw power and sacred appeal from their ability to communicate the unchanging characteristics of a nation. Flags visually depict the people, politics and founding values of a nation.
The Colours of the UAE flag
The UAE flag is aesthetically pleasing, and symmetrical to look at. It comprises pan-Arab colours – or colours that are quite common to the Arab world. Green, white and red stripes run horizontally across the flag, while a red stripe makes it vertical way down the inside border.
Here’s what those colours mean:
- Red: Running down the side of flag it represents courage, bravery and strength. It showcases the ability to fight for what’s right, and to defend what must be safeguarded.
- Green: The warlike red is immediately counterbalanced by the top green stripe running horizontally across the flag. It stands for hope, joy and love. It symbolises prosperity and fertility. Green is also representative of Islam; the official religion of the UAE.
- White: White is believed to reflect many attributes – all of them good. Through history, white has stood for purity. It can represent peace and honesty, but also signify cleanliness. Historians tend to believe that the white in the UAE flag signifies peace and neutrality, serving as a counterpoint to the more militant red and black.
- Black: Black is the colour of solidarity. It is also the colour of mental strength. It signifies the defeat of enemies – complementing the red stripe on the flag. Some sources have mistakenly attributed this band to depicting the UAE’s oil reserves, but that is incorrect.
So there you have it – the significance of flags in general, and of the UAE flag in particular. A very happy Flag Day to this wonderful nation!
But before signing off, we’ll leave you with one last interesting titbit of information. The UAE flag in its current guise was designed by a young Emirati – Abdullah Mohammad Al Maainah, after he saw an ad for a national flag-designing competition. He went on to become the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.