DUBAI // Tens of thousands of revellers last night thronged the base of the world's tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, as it celebrated its first New Year's Day with a huge fireworks spectacular in an event marked with festivities across the nation.
Rockets lit up the night sky and bathed the iconic building in light while a music, fire and water show at the Dubai Fountain heralded the start of 2011.
The fireworks show, thought to be the world's highest pyrotechnic display, began seconds before the stroke of midnight.
Filipino Lester Apacible, 25, on holiday in the UAE from his home in Manila, said: “It was amazing, awesome, absolutely brilliant. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m posting the pictures on Facebook right now.”
Briton Arti Lukha, 34, an advertising executive from Jumeirah 1 in Dubai, said: “There was only one place we wanted to be to welcome 2011, and that was here.”
Turning to her six-year-old son, George, she said: “Even he will remember this for a very long time.”
Organisers hope the 828-metre-tall structure will become as central a focal point for Dubai's New Year's Eve festivities as Times Square is for New York.
More visitors flocked to the nearby Burj Park, overlooked by the Burj Khalifa, where admission was free to enjoy the multimillion-dirham, three-minute fireworks display.
Families erected picnic chairs while others settled on the grass to enjoy the fiery cascades against the wintry night sky.
Around the tower, roads became jammed with cars, while thousands of pedestrians crowded the Burj metro station.
Bharat Chachara, a 40-year-old Indian who has lived in the UAE for 15 years, said he would like to see the countdown and fireworks display from Dubai become a "regular fixture" for international audiences. "In a couple of years time, people around the world might look forward to seeing the Burj Khalifa fireworks."
Huge television screens were erected around the tower to allow more people the chance to see the Fountain's water jets dance to a special hour-long music show featuring Arabic and western tunes.
"The Burj Khalifa New Year's Eve gala is our tribute to the celebratory spirit of Dubai, home to over 200 nationalities, and a truly global city," said Ahmad al Matrooshi, the managing director of Emaar Properties.
"The celebrations will put the international spotlight on the city and drive the destination as the must-visit place for New Year's Eve celebrations."
Live television feeds of the fireworks display at the tower - which mark the first anniversary of its opening on January 4 - were beamed out to international broadcasters for use alongside footage of celebrations at the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia.
Marc Stewart, 23, from Connecticut in the US, was on holiday in Dubai with friends, and said: "This is amazing. I've celebrated in Times Square and it's always freezing.
"This year I wanted to do something different. The Burj, the fountains, the people, will put this place totally on the map."
Mohammed al Redha, 30, from Dubai, said his family had planned a barbecue to watch the event in their backyard, which has views of the Burj Khalifa.
"For us to be there with all the world's monuments - we are proud, as this is something my people have achieved," he said.