UAE National Day marks turning point in country's history

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Long shadows from the global financial downturn hang over the United Arab Emirates as it marks its 38-year existence with flags and fireworks this week.

A debt crisis in Dubai has undercut investor confidence in the brash emirate's ambitions. It remains to be seen whether the UAE's oil-producing powerhouse Abu Dhabi will seize the chance to puncture the dreams of its freewheeling neighbour.

Balloons in the green, white, red and black of the UAE flag adorn myriad shopping malls for Wednesday's independence anniversary. Streets and trees are ablaze with fairy lights.

But beyond the fanfare, many in the seven emirates that united in 1971 when the British departed will be wondering what the future holds, especially for Dubai's bold attempts to build itself into a glittering financial, trade and tourism magnet.

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