View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Do You Know the Words and Tune of the UAE National Anthem?

Recognize It?
Chances are you may not recognize the tune if the UAE National Anthem is played and most people are unlikely to be able to sing along with the words in Arabic or know what they mean in English.

Heard It?
The American National Anthem has been played at least 930 times at the summer Olympics while the UAE Anthem has only been played once, back in 2004 in Athens when Ahmed al Maktoum took the gold medal in the Men’s Double Trap, shooting event.

Things Are About to Change
The UAE news agency WAM has reported (1 September 2009) that all government and private schools in the UAE must hoist the national flag and sing the national anthem at the beginning of the day’s activities effective from the current academic year 2009-2010.

The measure is to help instill the spirit of nationalism and patriotism among school students, the report said.

The writer of Buj al Arab (1 September 2009) says of this decision:

“I think this is a fantastic step. I went to a private school and we used to do this everyday. Taabor al Saba7 we used to call it. It was fun sometimes or boring or both but we felt like a country back then, and we all felt together. I loved the national anthem. I am a dying breed because not many people now know the words of the anthem, but what you learn as a kid will stay with you all through your life. It's such a beautiful anthem.”

Some wonder how appropriate it will be when the majority of school pupils who will sing the anthem in the UAE are expatriates. However, when our family lived in the USA while our children were young, my Kiwi son sang the American national anthem in elementary school every morning with his hand over his heart and he was as patriotic as the rest of his class mates.

Flagging Nationalism
An earlier article gave commentary on the meaning of the UAE flag and its colours. It is interesting to see these initiatives at a time when many countries have dispensed with the mandatory anthem singing at schools, sports matches and picture theatres.

Singing the Anthem
Often the UAE anthem is only played rather than sung as it did not have words from the time it was adopted in 1971 until 1996.

The tune, written by Mohamad Abdel Wahab, has been described as a ‘classic example of the style of anthem known as ‘Arab Fanfare’.

If the new directive requires singing each day it is important to get to know the words and lyrics as well as the tune.

The words were penned by Dr Aref Al Shaikh Abdullah Al Hassan who says he is a poet rather than a songwriter. In a National article (4 September 2009), he tells the story of how he was commissioned to write the anthem for the UAE.

Words and Tune
The tune of the UAE National Anthem—‘Ishy Bilady’ (Long Live My Nation)—can be heard and downloaded at this link along with the words in English and Arabic.

Arabic Lyrics (anglicized)
Iishi biladi, aasha ttihadu imaratina,
Iishti li-shaabin
Dinuhu l-iislamu hadyuhu l-qur'anu.
Hassantuki bi-smi l-lahi ya watanu
Biladi, biladi, biladi, biladi
Hamaki l-'ilahu shurua z-zamani
Aqsamma an nabni naamalu
Naamalu nakhlusu naamalu nakhlusu
Mahma iishna nakhlusu nakhlusu
Dama l-aman wa-aasha l-aalamu ya imarati,
Ramzu l-uurubati:
Kulluna nafdiki bi-d-dima nurwikiNafdiki bi-l-'arwahi ya watanu

Anthem in English
According to Dr al Shaikh the essence of the anthem is in these simple yet powerful words:

May you live for a people,
Whose religion is Islam, and whose guide is the Quran,
May I strengthen you in the name of God, O homeland,
My country, My country, My country, My country.

A longer version in English is posted at this link along with the Arabic script.

Listen In
Perhaps the best way to learn the national anthem is to listen to it being played and sung. It only takes 50 seconds but it is amazing how quickly the rousing music grows on you.

Different Versions
For patriotic visuals replete with Emirati symbols watch this version.

For a stirring rendition with a brass band accompaniment, listen to this version:

Here is the same band but with some patriotic images produced by HCT

If you are ready to hear the words as well as the tune, listen to these young boys.

Ready to sing along? Here it is with the words anglicized.

Now you are ready to hoist the flag (better buy a flag and flagpole first), put your hand over your heart and sing with gusto.

On Related Sites
Fujairah for Blue Skies, Beaches and Diving, Fujairah in Focus, 11 September 2009.

The Swiss Advantage in the America’s Cup, America’s Cup in the UAE, 12 September 2009.

Ted Kennedy’s Inspiring Last Letter to President Obama, Stories for Speakers and Writers, 11 September 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Ask him for details about advertizing and links on his sites.

Image: The UAE flag.