ABU DHABI // Indian nationals of all ages roared their applause when 26 Indian beauties from around the world danced in jeans and colourful tops.
In its 20th edition, the Miss India Worldwide pageant opened for the first time in the Middle East.
"The UAE is the ideal country in the Middle East to represent the cultural mix of the pageant," said Harmeek Singh, the director of Your Solution, one of the organisers of the event at the Emirates Palace hotel in the capital.
The pre-show action was filled with a fun vibe as contestants backstage practised dance moves, and some described what hairstyle they desired.
While some contestants were there just to "grab the opportunity", some saw it as a chance to show off talents or convey a serious message.
"My talent is a dance that represents peace. With all the disasters and problems in the world right now I want to show that only God the creator can help mankind out of their crisis," said Nafiza Nisha, 23, a fifth-year medical student from Fiji.
As with all beauty pageants, last night was filled with glamorous gowns and talents, but one thing about this one was different: there was no bikini segment.
"There is no way I would've participated if we had to wear bikinis," said Miss Fiji Island, who described herself as a practising Muslim.
Miss UAE, Farzana Parveen, 23, an events coordinator at a Dubai radio station, agreed. "It is not just because I'm a Muslim," she said.
"In every religion, there are conservative people who would disapprove of it."
Having the pageant in the UAE helped Miss Parveen to live a childhood dream. "When I was five, I dressed as Miss Universe and gave a speech at a fancy dress competition and won," she said.
"I hope this will open doors to more pageants in the UAE."
The pageant never consisted of a bikini segment since it was launched in 1990. The focus was always on culture and talent, organisers said.
"The goal was to bring Indians living all around the world together," said Dharmatma Saran, the founder of the competition. "There are 200 Indians gathered here just because of this competition."