SHARJAH // The Sharjah Light Festival got off to a sparkling start last night with a light and music show aimed at helping promote the emirate as a tourist destination.
Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed, the Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the event at Al Qasba.
Elaborate light-and-sound shows delighted crowds at 12 locations across the emirate. The festival, now in its third version, will run until February 18.
Residential and historic buildings, museums and government offices were decked out with colourful illuminations in the hope of helping raise the emirate's profile and attracting more visitors.
After launching the colourful extravaganza at Al Qasba, Sheikh Sultan began a boat trip along the Al Qasba Canal to Khalid Lagoon in a procession of abras. He was accompanied by prominent sheikhs.
Abdul Wahab al Zarouni, an Emirati, said he was overjoyed to see such a large festival in his country.
"I have seen this before in Europe but not at any time would I think it can be [done at] home," he said. "I think my country is really making fast progress."
But Hassan Ali, one of the residents who turned up at the inauguration, thought that this year's festival was not as impressive as those of previous years.
"I think there are fewer lights compared to last year," he said. "But today is just a beginning and it could pick up momentum."
Mohamed al Ansar, 32, from India, said the beautiful lights reminded him of his home country. "The festival brought back many memories. India has a great number of festivals, although many of them are religious festivals."
Peter Clark, a Briton who lives in Sharjah, said be was particularly impressed by the decoration of the central market which highlighted the traditional Arab architecture of the building.
Mohammed Osuman, 30, said the festivals should provide details on energy conservation saving as the emirate in which they are is prone to power shortages.
"I want to learn more about energy saving from this festival," he said. "The authorities from Sharjah Electricity have always lectured us on power saving and this should be their chance to show us how."
The Festival of Light was organised by the emirate's Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA). "Sharjah is an emirate that has a very active cultural movement represented in a series of prestigious and distinct cultural, art and heritage activities which dramatically illustrate Sharjah's international position," said Sheikh Sultan Bin Ahmed al Qassimi, the SCTDA chairman. "Our ambitions are high in revealing the emirate and its tourist features," he added.
The event is aimed at highlighting the unique qualities of the emirate, which combine the past and present to make it a distinctive tourist destination, the SCTDA said. Sharjah is hoping to emulate certain major European cities including Lyon and Berlin which have been successful in using high-voltage displays as a tourism lure.
"Sharjah has a rich treasure of old buildings and historical sites," said Yousuf al Hajj, 30, a resident of the Buhaira area. "Lighting these sites will help people understand the value of their heritage and incorporate it into their modern way of life."
The first lights festival was held in May of last year at the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry building. The second came as part of the Eid al Adha celebrations in November and took place at the Sharjah Cultural Palace.