Dense crowds of New Year's celebrants bustled for space around the world's tallest building in Dubai, while music fans in the capital thrilled to Coldplay from the band's afternoon sound check to the stroke of midnight.
Happy New Year: a country parties
New Year's celebrants thronged the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa for the second year in a row, braving traffic jams and dense crowds to enjoy the midnight fireworks over the world's tallest tower.
Just before midnight, the Burj Khalifa darkened. White lights shone from the top, then around and down the length of the building. Bright puffs and comet tails of white, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple fireworks shot off it, up and down the building. A rainbow of colour ringed the length of the tower as it glittered. The show lasted just about 10 minutes.
In Abu Dhabi, revellers were ringing in the New Year with a Coldplay concert at the Volvo Ocean Race Destination Village.
The band opened with Hurts Like Heaven, from their newest album Mylo Xyloto. Giant yellow, green and blue balloons sailed across the crowd as the band played Yellow, from their 2000 debut album.
Afterwards came In My Place, the lead single from their second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head.
Adam Dunne, 27, from the UK, came with his wife.
"To celebrate New Year's Eve at a Coldplay concert is just amazing. The atmosphere and the crowd has really made it," he said.
Flash Entertainment estimated there were 20,000 fans ringing in the new year at the concert.
During the afternoon, the sounds of the band warming up were an added excitement for visitors who attended the opening day of the Corniche's Destination Village.
The band was rehearsing during a sound check at a stage adjacent to the village, where visitors milled about, listening in anticipation of the New Year's Eve concert.
"It's exciting to hear them practise; I just can't wait to hear them properly tonight," said Rachel Freeman, a UK expatriate who was exploring the village with her family before the show.
Destination Village, where the Volvo Ocean Race yachts will be on display after their anticipated arrival on Wednesday, is expected to draw thousands of sailing enthusiasts before it is packed away and shipped to China on January 14.
Visitors meandered around the 55,000-square-metre village, which had an abundance of interactive entertainment and shows to kick-start its two-week race extravaganza.
One of the main attractions was the 3-D cinema, which showed an eight-minute documentary with a quick but in-depth insight into the life of a Volvo Ocean Race sailor.
"I think the film was great, because it gives us an idea of how they do it; I never knew how much hard work it is to be on those yachts," said Sarah Dee, from Senegal.
The Ride, a yacht simulator, was also a way for people to gain insight into the extreme life on the high seas.
According to the Mahmood Musleh, 16, and his four friends, it was "amazing".
"I really liked that they also sprayed us with water; that was fun," he said.
The real treat for visitors was an air show put on by seven fighter jets from the UAE Air Force, which performed gasp-inducing stunts along the corniche and above Destination Village.
After the airshow, the main stage had an array of cultural performances, including colourful Tanura performers and Emirati dancers, which added a local touch to the festivities.
The village is being assembled and dismantled in all of the 10 locations along the circuit, as it follows the six 21-metre yachts from city to city en route to their end destination city of Galway, Ireland.
After so much work, Mubarak Al Muhairi, director general of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, said it was great to see the Volvo Ocean Race Destination Village come to fruition.
"In March 2010 we signed the contract [to host the race] but it was at least a year before that when we started the talks and negotiations [with Volvo Ocean Race organisers]."
Mr Al Muhairi, who officially opened the Destination Village along with the chief executive of the Volvo Ocean Race, Knut Frostad, and others, said: "We promised to make this a very memorable event, and the feedback so far from some of the organisers is great, and the same from the teams." Mr Al Muhairi said even after all the research he conducted he still was not prepared for the intensity of the race.
"I was still surprised how tough it was, especially in the first two legs; I am glad there are five boats making it into Abu Dhabi."
Entry to the Destination Village is free and visitors will have access to plenty of entertainment over the next two weeks, including an exhibition race where a sailor from each of the six Volvo Ocean Race teams will join a traditional Arabian dhow crew.
In Dubai, lines had begun forming at the Burj Khalifa metro station by late afternoon, two attendants said.
By evening, road traffic from the world's tallest tower stretched to Safa Park on one side and past the World Trade Centre roundabout on the other.
The outdoor fountain area adjacent to the Burj Khalifa was so packed at 9pm that police had to prevent more people trying to squeeze in.
Later in the evening, the Roads and Transport Authority urged followers on Twitter to avoid the congested Sheikh Zayed Road. They said metro tickets would not be on sale after 10pm and that only Nol cards would be accepted for passage after midnight.
Meanwhile on the Abu Dhabi Corniche, ticket holders streamed in after Coldplay's 10.45pm start after waiting in lines to get into the venue.
There were some reports on Twitter about a breakdown in the free park-and-ride shuttle service offered from the Hilton hotel, and many decided just to walk to the end of the peninsula instead of waiting.
For more information, visit volvooceanraceabudhabi.com