DUBAI // A giant yellow octopus, a smiling blue bear and a colourful Indian dancer flew over Dubai yesterday.
They were part of the first International Kite Festival in the emirate.
On a windy day with strong gusts tossing the myriad shapes around the skies near the Dubai Outlet Mall, teams from Kuwait, the US and India showcased large kites alongside hundreds of residents who flew smaller versions.
"The kites are like magic, you feel it's one sky, one world when you see so many cultures up in the sky in one place," said Ali Buhamad, an engineer from Kuwait who flies kites as a hobby with his accountant brother Amar at festivals around the world.
"We enjoy talking to people and telling them to come fly with us. We like to spread the information that it is a fun hobby."
The brothers made kites by hand as children and now buy these from companies in New Zealand and Germany. Their white tiger and blue bear kites were among the festival's largest, stretching to 35 metres long and 12 metres wide.
The show kites were anchored to car bumpers, sandbags and poles or held down by friends so the owners could fly multiple sets.
Groups of children jumped and tugged at the yellow tentacles of a red-and-black-eyed octopus that swirled around the laughing youngsters, throwing up clouds of sand just before it soared overhead.
"We travel to 10 international festivals each year and just seeing all these smiling people spreads the message of how much fun it can be," said David Gomberg, from the US, whose company makes a host of inflatables like the octopus and rainbow-striped kites.
Children clapped as a kite with large kohl-lined eyes resembling the headdress of a traditional Indian Kathakkali dancer wafted above. Team Mangalore, the owners, said they incorporate dance forms for a distinctive look.
"It's very important to get children outdoors," said B Sarvesh Rao, a founder member who runs a motor workshop in southern India and designs kites as a hobby.
"Apart from being fun, flying kites helps improve their skills, gets them away from computer games and TV. We make kites that can be recognised as culturally different."
The sandy ground behind the mall was filled with parents teaching their children to fly diamond shaped kites.
"Run backwards, Jamie," the American resident Julie Woods encouraged her 3-year-old son as he flew his first kite yesterday. As she helped her two young sons fly a yellow kite, Ms Woods dispensed tips that she remembered from childhood. "I like this mix at the festival. There are basic versions and complicated ones so it's good for everyone."
Timur Monasypov, 8, from Moscow, pursued his lips as he prepared to buy a kite with his father; who too had never flown them before.
"How difficult can it be?" Timur said. "I just love these things because they go up so high."
Participants could buy kites at stalls during the day-long festival that included kite-building workshops.