Dubai: As the clock chimed 12, Burj Khalifa came alive with the most spectacular laser show that triggered a collective gasp from thousands gathered here! It also establish a new Guinness world record for the largest laser light and sound show on one single structure. The world's tallest tower was bathed in dazzling laser lights in a dynamic dance synchronised with music.
The 10-minute laser show began with a display of 2018 being Year of Zayed and went on to display the symbols of the nation - The UAE flag, the falcon in flight and the Arabic language - all to fanfare music and razzmatazz.
There was deafening applause as the excited crowds cheered, whistled and clapped, many hugging their loved ones, ushering in 2018 with this grand light and sound show.
The entire Downtown Dubai was transformed into a fantasy land for New Year's Eve and the buzz and begun building up from 3pm earlier in the day. Thousands crossed over from metro stations with chilren in prams, cameras around their neck and expensive bookings for dinner at restaurants around the fountain in a bid to get a ringside view of the action.
For the thousands who gathered under the cool winter skies to watch never-seen-before displays of lasers, lights and fireworks, the wait was worth every minute.
The Burj Khalifa was the centrepiece of attraction, beaming the UAE’s success story, as well as tributes to the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, minutes into 2018 — the Year of Zayed.
The facades of the Burj Khalifa and surrounding high-rises were turned into a canvas for the show, which was also watched live on social media.
Amimar Alag and Manal Bin Khalid, friends from Algeria, fell in love with Dubai when they arrived here a week ago.
“I have been to Dubai earlier but for Manal this is her maiden visit. We think the laser show was absolutely fantastic and it took our breath away!”
“This is my first visit to Dubai and I came here only for nine days but this is something I will never forget,” said a visibly moved Manal.
Carter Wong and Mina Choi from China came to Dubai as they had seen so many advertisements of New Year at Burj Khalifa.
“Two days before we came here last week, we were told the fireworks have been replaced by Laser but we decided we would come anyway and we don’t regret it. This was even better! We reserved a place around the fountain and got such a wonderful view,” said Wong.
Asim Zafar from Islamabad who had watched New Year celebrations at Burj Khalifa earlier decided to bring his wife Madiha Manzoor and daughters Dua Ali and Izza Ali for their maiden visit to Dubai.
“I really loved the laser show. My daughters and I were breathless and speechless,” said Manzoor who had been camping with her family since 3pm in the afternoon.
As the show unfolded on the towers, onlookers below took videos and pictures, their mobile phones making a galaxy of small lights.
Nasir Ali, a 29-year-old Pakistani who lives in Ajman, took a day off from work on Sunday to visit Downtown Dubai with his friends.
“This is my first time to see the show at Burj Khalifa. I’ve been here since afternoon and don’t mind waiting till midnight — the weather’s pleasant and the show is not to be missed,” said Ali, who works in the property sector.
“After the show, we will cross Shaikh Zayed Road and hopefully catch a taxi back to Ajman.”
Watching the show and leaving afterwards was easy for Haysam Naveed, 17, a British resident of Burj Khalifa.
“It’s better when you can see the whole show from a vantage point other than looking straight up, although I have opted once to see the show from outside my apartment, from the base of Burj Khalifa,” said Naveed, a student, who has seen the show for the past three years.
“I’m really excited about the laser show this time, it’s a change from the fireworks.”
Earlier in the day, all roads in the city led to Downtown Dubai, as traffic began building up on the main roads leading to the area as early as 2pm. By early evening, the Dubai Mall parking was fully occupied.
Several roads leading to Downtown were closed by sundown and traffic was diverted to alternative parking areas from where the shuttle buses transported revellers to the Dubai Mall.
Dubai Metro operated non-stop from Sunday morning, transporting thousands of passengers in packed trains to the celebration venue.
Thousands of revellers also parked on the other side of Shaikh Zayed Road in Al Wasl and Al Badaa areas, walking several kilometres to watch the show of the year.
Meanwhile, Ras Al Khaimah also hosted a world record bid for the “largest aerial firework shell” as part of the celebrations at Al Marjan Island, the emirate’s first man-made archipelago in the Arabian Gulf.
The event, also featuring live feeds at leading networks, was set to music by 14 renowned composers, accompanying the fireworks from 120 sites. There was a custom countdown by Dan Mullins, the music coordinator of Fireworks by Grucci, going all the way to the crescendo set to James Price’s Caped Crusader.
Similar scenes unfolded at around a dozen other locations in the UAE that were home to the New Year’s celebrations, such as the Countdown Village at the Abu Dhabi corniche breakwater and Al Majaz Waterfront in Sharjah.
To manage the crowds and traffic, and ensure security and safety, authorities were out in full force, with unprecedented arrangements put in place in the lead up to the big night.
In Dubai, The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), in coordination with the Dubai Events Security Committee and Emaar, the master developer of Downtown Dubai, had already announced preparations for managing the crowd and traffic movement for the New Year’s event.
Roads close to the district were closed and special pedestrian crossings were opened on Shaikh Zayed Road near Burj Khalifa Metro Station and Business Bay Metro Station.
Dubai Police was on site to help direct the flow of pedestrians, with over 5,000 cameras in The Dubai Mall area keeping a watchful eye for added security and safety.
After the celebrations, crowds poured out of the area, many heading back to cars parked on the opposite side of Shaikh Zayed Road. There was a beeline on roads heading to Sharjah, where a lot of the revellers had come for the New Year’s Eve shows in Dubai.