Dubai dazzles the world once more with a spectacular display of fireworks as more than a million people gathered to ring in the New Year.
Masses of people from various nationalities who gathered at the Burj Khalifa - some as early as noon yesterday - were mesmerized by the astonishing visual effects of fire, water, light and music.
The flag of the UAE was flashed on large screens spread across the Burj Khalifa, followed by images of flags of a number of countries including Morocco, Egypt, England, India and many others.
Smiling faces of spectators appeared on the screens seconds before the fireworks lit up the skies of Dubai and at the first sight of the fireworks, spectators watching the breathtaking celebrations held up their cameras to catch the unmatched scene.
Towers around the Burj joined in with their own display of fireworks.
“We were here last year but weren’t lucky to catch a good glimpse of the dazzling fireworks so we returned this year,” said Yara and Lyana Elbanna, two sisters who came from Jordan for the event.
Marina Zmitrovch, from Ukraine, said: “My sister lives here and told me how amazing the celebrations are but I didn’t expect all these preparations and didn’t expect so many people would be here.”
Restaurants overlooking the Dubai Fountain were fully booked and the surrounding towers were lit up while helicopters circled above the area to capture a 360-degree view of the display.
Traffic jams kept cars at a standstill in some areas while huge crowds at the Dubai Mall Metro station led to hard-to-navigate congestion. But authorities said they were well-prepared to deal with the masses, and police patrols and emergency vehicles were stationed around the main areas hosting the event.
As the fireworks ended, spectators congratulated one another on the coming new year.
In the capital, dense crowds packed the Corniche to ring in the New Year with fireworks, while others flocked to the capital's hotels for lavish dinners and live entertainment.
Revellers were in high spirits as they waited before midnight at the entrance of Emirates Palace for countdown and the fireworks display.
Many stopped to take photos of the fireworks which lit up the sky for about seven minutes. Others raised their glasses, hugged and greeted friends and family members.
Carol Quijano and Geoffrey Guzman, both from the Philippines, had dinner at 7.30pm at the hotel before joining the crowds at midnight.
“I’ve celebrated New Year’s Eve at Burj Khalifa twice but this year, I wanted to experience something different,” Ms Quijano said. “The fireworks display was simple but amazing!”
Ghaith Abu Hamour, 28, a sales manager in Abu Dhabi, said he chose to ring in the new year in the capital instead of Dubai, where he only visits during weekends.
“I really like Abu Dhabi,” he said. “It’s very quiet and ideal for families. Business was good this year and I expect 2013 to be a lot better.”
For the past two years, Muneer Cherkkayil, 26, a technician at Badar Zayed, Madinat Zayed, has celebrated New Year's Eve on the Corniche. This year he welcomed the arrival of the new year at home with his brother Akbar, 29, his sister-in-law Shabna, 19, and friends.
"It's been a great year because I got married on July 1 in India," he said. "I'm sure 2013 will be a better year for me and my family."
"It will be the first time I'm celebrating New Year's Eve on the Corniche," said Noemi Al Dhaheri, 49, who has lived in Abu Dhabi for 25 years. "For years, we've been welcoming the new year at home.
"I'd like to throw all my frustrations and welcome positive vibes. I don't really wish for more money, but good health and peace of mind in 2013."
Other revellers flocked to the Emirates Palace Hotel, which celebrated with Arab pop music by the Iraqi singer and poet Kadim Al Sahir and Lebanese starlet Najwa Karem at the Etihad Ballroom.
"2012 wasn't a bad year. It had its highs and lows but I ended it well," said Gina Eipe, who has worked at Etihad Airways for the past two and a half years and enjoyed a dinner with friends before taking in the fireworks.
At the Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel and Resort on the Corniche, guests spent the last evening of the year and celebrated the arrival of 2013 at Flavours Restaurant, La Mamma Restaurant, and El Sombrero Mexican Restaurant and B-Lounge which had live entertainment and a flow of house beverages.
Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi had a poolside party, while on Yas Island, six restaurants within Yas Viceroy launched their own New Year's Eve programme.
Sheikh Khalifa, the President, sent congratulatory cables to heads of state worldwide for the new year.
Sheikh Khalifa wished them health, prosperity and progress for their people.
Overseas, Sydney's skyline erupted with tons of exploding fireworks as revellers cheered in the new year from the city's crammed harbour in the first first major celebration for 2013.
The enthusiastic welcome to 2013 continued on a grand scale across Asia, with extravagant firework displays lighting up the skies in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai. Increasingly democratic Myanmar, ruled for almost five decades by military regimes that discouraged or banned big public gatherings, organised a public countdown for the first time. Jakarta held a huge street party befitting Indonesia's powering economy.
The buoyant economies of the Asia-Pacific were partying with renewed optimism despite the so-called fiscal cliff threatening to reverberate globally from the United States and the tattered economies of Europe.
Celebrations took place around the world, with hundreds of thousands filling Times Square in New York City to watch the drop of a Waterford crystal-studded ball.
In austerity-hit Europe, many cities were burning off part of their battered budgets in spectacular fireworks displays, although some municipalities - including the Cypriot capital, Nicosia - cancelled their celebrations in light of the economic crisis.
In Scotland, where Edinburgh traditionally hosts one of the biggest New Year's Eve parties in Europe, belt-tightening had not blighted the mood.
About 75,000 people were taking part in the Scottish capital's Hogmanay celebrations.
* Additional reporting by the Associated Press