Dubai earned a world record for the largest light and sound show on a single building as thousands gathered around Burj Khalifa for the emirate’s first New Year’s Eve laser show.
The ‘Light Up 2018’ on Burj Khalifa covered a surface area of 109,252 sq metres, more than double that of the earlier Guinness World record set on the ICC Building in Hong Kong in 2013.
'Light up 2018’, which replaced the city’s usual annual fireworks display, began at midnight lasting approximately seven minutes. Onlookers watched in awe as beams of colour shot through the night sky pierced by the world’s tallest building.
Visual tributes were paid to the founding father of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth and the start of the year commemorated as the ‘Year of Zayed’.
“The ‘Light Up 2018’ spectacle is our tribute to the nation, celebrating its accomplishments, and putting the UAE on the global map as a true hub where inspiring minds meet and connect,” said Mohamed Alabbar, Chairman of Emaar Properties.
Talal Omar, Guinness World Record's Country Manager, said: “We are always keen to find out what records Emaar plan to attempt each year, and to support them as they continue to push the boundaries of technology and innovation in these attempts.”
People from far and wide poured into the surrounding areas as early as midday with many electing to take public transport to avoid heavy traffic congestion.
By 6pm, the walkway to Souk Al Bahar was packed with spectators and not a free seat was spied in The Dubai Mall’s restaurants and cafes facing the fountains.
Table bookings were made weeks in advance costing upwards of Dh800 per person in places.
Mohammed Ali, a Jordanian engineer, was one of the lucky few to bag a table, thus securing a front row seat to the highly-anticipated laser show for himself and his family.
“Luckily we had reserved our table because the restaurant was packed,” he said.
Nadia Haj Khalil also attended celebrations with her family and despite living in the country for ten years, said she was astonished by the displays every year.
“We are too lucky to be able to spend our New Year’s Eve in this fabulous place,” the Syrian said.
“My husband, two kids and I have heard a lot about light up 2018 and we are too excited,” she said.
As for her wishes for the upcoming year, Ms Haj Khalil said she hoped she would be able to see her three eldest sons who have immigrated to Sweden.
“I pray for peace in Syria,” she said.
Layla Suliemani, 36, and her family flew in from Paris last Thursday to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Dubai.
“We are visiting Dubai for the first time. It is a spectacular city,” said Mrs Suliemani, adding that her wishes for the new year were peace around the world – particularly in Syria and Palestine.
“Dubai is so beautiful and we are having a great time here,” the mother-of-three said.
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Tourist Kristyna Sevcik, 20, and her father Robert, 48, were visiting the emirate from the Czech Republic. They came specifically for New Year’s Eve, arriving just two days before.
“My father planned the whole trip this year. He bought the tickets as a present for Christmas. We came here to celebrate New Year’s Eve and to watch Light Up 2018,” said Ms Sevcik.
“I heard a lot about Dubai and watched few videos on YouTube, which made me too excited,” she said.
The Sevciks are stayed in a hotel in Deira but commuted to Downtown at 10am to avoid the rush.
“We used the metro and it wasn’t too crowded. Everything is too organised here,” she said.
Early visitors were kept entertained with fountain shows at 20 minute intervals and burst of light projecting from the centre of Burj Khalifa imitating a pulse and teasing but a small fraction of the extravaganza to come.
As the night progressed police stopped admitting visitors. Some of those who made it in time to gain entry donned festive hats and danced between the tables as others dined.
Ten minutes before the show was due to begin, Burj Khalifa’s lights were turned off, building anticipation.
At exactly 12am, the tower began pulsating blue light as crowds armed with mobile phones lifted them to begin recording.
The timer counted down from ten and the words “happy new year” was displayed to roaring cheers.
Between geometric patterns and calligraphy, images of sand dunes and a flying eagle were also projected.
Fountains danced in time and the show ended with “2018” and “Year of Zayed” emblazoned atop a background of the UAE flag. Moments later, the display changed to inform the crowds that the world record had been broken.