ABU DHABI // Hasan Morad Al Beloushi held a trophy high to an excited crowd as they applauded the achievement of a group of ambitious Emiratis.
He was one of the 10 students and graduates from UAE University who were last night awarded for their creative achievements at the Abu Dhabi Festival awards ceremony.
Mr Al Beloushi, 23, who was being recognised for his achievements as a young media leader, was not intimidated by the hundreds of guests or the cameras beside them - as is to be expected from a young man starting a career in television.
"We live in an age of social media, of advanced technology and social networking," he said on the sidelines of the awards presentation. "And we as Emiratis should also be part of this remarkable progress."
The winners were selected from a group of government institutions including Zayed University and the Higher Colleges of Technology.
The awards ceremony was part of the launch of the festival at the Emirates Palace hotel.
The 27-day festival includes 168 cultural and artistic events across all seven emirates.
The creative achievement awards recognise the winners' outstanding participation in initiatives supported by the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation.
They include the Young Media Leaders programme, which offers Emirati students training for careers in the media, and the Theatre-in-Education (Tie) programme, in which students participate in 40 hours of practical workshops led by the City University of New York's creative arts team.
Mr Al Beloushi is training with Abu Dhabi Television, learning how to conduct interviews, report and present. He was the only man alongside a group of nine women.
"From when I was younger I always used to enjoy school presentations and would take any opportunity to be the centre of attention," he said. "And as I entered university, I realised that this was what I wanted to pursue as a career.
"I want to be in front of the camera, not behind it. I work with Lebanese, Syrian and Sudanese presenters. It's time to bring Emiratis to the forefront of the media, too."
Khawlah Al Neaimy was another of the students who received a creative achievement award, for her participation in the Tie programme.
"This is an important step to bringing drama and theatre to the UAE and making it part of our curriculum," said Ms Al Neaimy, 22. "It allows children to enjoy learning by going beyond the traditional teaching methods of memorisation."
The Emirati from Fujairah said she was thankful she had a supportive family who let her pursue her dream in New York, as the programme required annual trips to the home campus in the US.
By working closely with the cultural department in the Sharjah Theatres Group, she hopes to establish a prominent role for theatre in the classrooms. "Drama is a part of our daily lives," Ms Al Neaimy said. "And in the UAE we don't here about using drama as part of education. Not only do we not hear about it in the schools, but also in the community."
Last night was the first time the festival issued a lifetime achievement award.
It was awarded posthumously to Dr Walid Gholmieh, a prominent conductor, composer, scholar and activist for western classical music in the Middle East, and a singular force in Lebanon's classical landscape.
After the awards ceremony came a performance by the renowned Indian-American sitar player Anoushka Shankar, the daughter of the legendary Ravi Shankar, who dazzled the audience with her Indian melodies infused with Spanish beats.