DUBAI// Thousands of people chose to avoid the hustle and bustle of the huge crowds that gathered around Dubai’s landmarks in favour of a New Year’s Eve celebration on the grass at Safa Park.
As the sun set, families, couples and groups of friends from all over the UAE and further afield laid out picnic blankets and set up barbecues to welcome in 2014 in a relaxed atmosphere.
“We got here at about midday because we wanted a nice place to see the fireworks but away from all the traffic and crowds at Dubai Mall,” said Bijendra Singh, from India, who travelled with 14 members of his family from Ras Al Khaimah.
“We really wanted to make a day out of it for the children as well and brought a picnic.”
The family make the journey to the popular park each year to watch the fireworks display from the world’s tallest building on the other side of Sheikh Zayed Road.
“This is a perfect view to see the fireworks at the Burj and we will also try to find a location where we can see the others from the Burj Al Arab.”
Mohammed Sajid, also from India, travelled from Al Dhaid in Sharjah with his family of six and was prepared for a long evening.
“We’ve got a tent we’ll be using and are planning to stay until around 1am to see the celebrations,” he said. “It gets too crazy at the Burj this time of year and having small children we didn’t want to be in a situation like that.
“Safa Park is much better. You can see the fireworks but not have to worry about it being overcrowded and there is plenty of space for the children to run around.”
The family were planning to have a barbecue a couple of hours before midnight.
“We’re also thinking about driving down near the beach to get a vantage point to see the fireworks on the Palm Jumeirah and Burj Al Arab,” said Mr Sajid.
Mohammed Fallaha, a Syrian, was enjoying a large barbecue with 15 members of his family.
“We’ve been coming here on New Year’s Eve for the last four years,” he said. “We got here nice and early and are set up here for the rest of the night.
“It is more family orientated and I would much rather be here where it’s quiet than at the mall where there are too many people.”
The park is also a regular location for Dubai resident Mohammed Ismaiel from Jordan.
“We try to spend time either here or Zabeel Park because it’s a good place to get away from the rush of normal life in Dubai,” he said.
“You can see everything from the park without all the stress of traffic and big crowds. The atmosphere here is very friendly with people able to do things in their own pace.”
New Year’s Eve in Dubai was a new experience for Lisa and Craig Mawer, who decided to celebrate away from the UK for the first time.
“We wanted to see what new year was like in another culture so decided to get away from the bad weather back home and come to Dubai,” said Mr Mawer.
“It’s been very relaxed and we’ve noticed that it’s a lot more family orientated with people having barbecues and being out in the park.”
The couple bought tickets for Sandance at the Atlantis but decided not to go in favour of watching the fireworks from their hotel, the JW Marriott Marquis hotel, which overlooks Downtown Dubai.
“I think Sandance was going to be a bit too overcrowded for our liking so we’ll take in the celebrations in this part of town. We can watch the fireworks and avoid all the traffic madness,” said Mrs Mawer.