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Across the UAE, hope and optimism as thousands celebrate new year

DUBAI // UAE leaders hailed the beginning of a new year promising progress as hundreds of thousands of Emiratis and people from around the world celebrated the arrival of 2017 in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and across the country.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid expressed pride for challenges that were overcome and achievements accomplished last year. The Vice President and Ruler of Dubai said he looked forward to the next year “being a year of giving, joy and prosperity”.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, also voiced optimism.

“The sky is the limit for our ambitions in the progress and glory of our nation,” he said.

In Dubai, thousands of revellers celebrated, smiling and greeting one another ahead of the seven-minute midnight fireworks spectacular at the Burj Khalifa. Thousands of onlookers sought to capture every second of the dazzling show on their smartphones.

The Dubai Ruler’s three-finger gesture of victory was mounted near the Fountain, while huge screens installed in the area broadcast the show for the crowds.

“I have been living here for four years and ever since I wished to witness Dubai’s mesmerising New Year’s celebration, but I was not able to do so. This year, I decided I will come no matter what,” said May Abdullah, a Filipina hairstylist who converted to Islam a few months after arriving in the UAE.

Some in the crowd had come prepared with food and water, particularly parents with small children.

“I know I might not need some of the things I brought for my 18-month-baby, but I can’t take the chance,” said Jordanian Dania Zheiman, 28.

“I came to Dubai three years ago after getting married and since then my dream was to see the fireworks live.”

A total of 750 Dubai Police patrols, including female officers, secured 160 locations where celebrations took place, including in 32 Downtown.

The others were in Business Bay, the Water Canal, Al Khail Road, Al Jidaf and New Burj in Ras Al Khor.

In Abu Dhabi, Coldplay rang in the New Year in dazzling fashion at Yas Island’s du Arena. Back in the capital five years after their New Year’s Eve show on the Corniche, the British four-piece provided the spectacle fans craved.

They performed on three stages with cutting-edge production – lighting rigs beamed out a fantasia of colours as wristbands worn by more than 25,000 attendees that lit up in colours to complement songs.

Bells sounded around the arena as the group ran on to kick off the show with A Head Full of Dreams, the title track on the band’s latest album. Next up was Yellow, which remains the band’s calling card after being released 15 years ago.

Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf serenaded an adoring audience of New Year’s Eve revellers at Al Maryah Island, where later, onlookers saw a seven-minute firework show.

Seventeen-year-old Youssef Bakr was among the 1,500 lucky fans who succeeded in reserving tickets online for the free outdoor concert along the waterfront promenade, which also included performances by Emirati vocalist Hussain Al Jassmi and Egyptian pop star Mohammed Hamaki.

“This concert is one of the best I’ve been to because I think the best singers are coming here and, really, we are enjoying the new year,” said Youssef, a 17-year-old Palestinian who danced with his sisters Dana, Farah and Narmeen.

“We’re the biggest fans,” said Dana Bakr, 27. “The three are the most famous singers in the Arab world and they are perfect.”

Narmeen Bakr said this was the first year her family celebrated the new year outside of their home. They could not pass up the opportunity to see Assaf, who is also an Arab Idol winner.

“Mohammed Assaf is our superstar in Palestine. That’s why we really love him,” she said.

However, many fans said they were unaware that the free tickets needed to be reserved in advance. Many arrived in their finest clothing only to be redirected by security away from the stage.

Organisers said about 10,000 people attended the concert, which was also broadcast on screens. The ticketed area in front of the stage was limited to 1,500 people.

On Yas Island, celebrations started early as hundreds of families visited the Winterland Carnival at du Forum. Children had snowball fights and made snow angels in an indoor snow park, while overhead fans blew white flakes that shimmered in the air.

The festive atmosphere continued outdoors as fearless youngsters threw themselves down a steep, inflated slide or rode on a caterpillar rollercoaster squealing with delight.

While children burnt off the last of their 2016 energy, adults welcomed the year ahead and expressed thanks for the one just past. For Emirati Nour Baslaib, 2016 was filled with milestones. “I have so many achievements. I graduated and have my job,” said the 27-year-old, who completed a quality and strategic management programme at Higher Colleges of Technology.

“Inshallah, next year, I hope to develop my career and have more personal growth, and to have my own business.”

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*With reporting by Saeed Saeed

The National