x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Thousands watch in awe as fireworks light up Abu Dhabi’s corniche

There was a day of colourful celebrations on Abu Dhabi's Corniche as thousands enjoyed the National Day festivities.

Crowds watch in awe as fireworks were set off along the Abu Dhabi corniche in celebration of the nation's 42nd anniversary. Mona Al-Marzouqi / The National
Crowds watch in awe as fireworks were set off along the Abu Dhabi corniche in celebration of the nation's 42nd anniversary. Mona Al-Marzouqi / The National

Streams of red, green, white and black smoke streaked across the Abu Dhabi sky as military jets criss-crossed over the Corniche where thousands gathered for National Day celebrations yesterday.

All eyes turned to the afternoon sky as the aircraft performed intricate formations and daring dives, painting the sky in the national colours to mark the 42nd anniversary of the Union.

On the water, the UAE Navy paraded two of its ships along the Corniche, each followed by a helicopter hovering low over the water.

“It’s very beautiful,” said Ombeline Henry, a French tourist visiting the city with her husband, Mark. “What can we say about the planes, it’s fantastic.”

Outside the Heritage Village on the Breakwater, the atmosphere was especially festive as dozens of men held imitation rifles over their left shoulders and swung blades in their right hands as they danced in a circle chanting songs to the beat of drums.

The performance was a reenactment of a traditional post-war victory dance. Although the roots of this particular dance were Yemeni, the tradition is carried on in the UAE through the Yafa family in the southern emirates.

The lively show drew dozens of admiring spectators.

As darkness fell, green and white lights beamed like lasers from Emirates Palace, itself illuminated in red. Traffic along the Corniche Road slowed to a crawl as revellers, packed inside their decorated vehicles, paraded around town honking horns, revving engines and spraying silly string at each other or passers-by.

Amanda Scott, a 35-year-old Australian, was among those clapping and cheering on the drivers.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Ms Scott said.

Sara Al Ameri, an 18-year-old Emirati from Al Ain, said she enjoyed the local National Day festivities.

“I feel proud. This day, I think, is a duty, it’s a celebration to pay back our leaders and I don’t think it’s enough,” Ms Al Ameri said. “The smile on the faces, it’s in our hearts that we want to celebrate.”

Later in the evening, the sky lit up with bright gold sparkles as fireworks popped over the palm trees.

Families who had been picnicking on the grass along the Corniche stood from their blankets or chairs to get a better look at the 12-minute show.

“It’s so awesome,” said 21-year-old Aisha Aloudat, a Syrian who was born in the UAE. “I feel happy because all the people celebrate.”

“They were really pretty and the sky was the same colour as the fireworks,” said nine-year-old Aymeric Mouttapa, who moved to the UAE from France with his parents three months ago.

“The shapes were pretty good also,” said Corentin Mouttapa, Aymeric’s 12-year-old brother.

As the fireworks continued to explode and decorate the night sky, six horseman galloped along the Corniche Road waving large UAE flags.

For Paivi Virta, who was visiting the UAE for the first time from her home in Finland and watching the light show from the grounds of the Hilton hotel, the celebrations were unlike any she had seen.

“It’s been amazing,” Ms Virta said. “We knew there would be a party, but we didn’t know it would last this many days. Everything here is so big and fancy – it’s so totally different from Finland.”

Shekib Popal, a 23-year-old visitor from Afghanistan who was also experiencing the festivities for the first time, said the entire National Day celebrations had been enjoyable.

“It is a symbol of happiness,” Mr Popal said of the fireworks. “I get really happy to see these people this happy. It shows peace, peacefulness.”

rpennington@thenational.ae