DUBAI // Hundreds flocked to Creek Park last night to enjoy a fireworks display, fire dancers and a water show at the launch of the 18th Dubai Shopping Festival.
The theme of the ceremony marking the beginning of the month-long event - this year called "Dubai at its Best" - focused on the history, prosperity, expansion and modernity of Dubai.
The last act depicted the shopping festival's evolution and importance.
Floating tableaus built in the shape of horses to signify the emirate's equestrian past floated down Dubai Creek as dancers swayed to marching music and depicted the heritage of Emirati horsemanship.
"It is a nice opportunity to watch this spectacular show, especially when the weather is so nice," said Yazed Ahmad, a 27-year-old salesman who attended the show with his friends.
Yasmin Mohammed, a 24-year-old accountant, said it was nice to see the Creek and Dubai sky light up to mark this important festival.
"I love the Dubai Shopping Festival because there are a lot of opportunities to do shopping with lesser prices," she said.
The festival's organisers, the Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment, chose the Creek "because of its special position in the history of Dubai".
"From its humble beginnings as a cluster of pearling settlements on the shores of Dubai Creek, or Khor Dubai, the city has grown in every direction and in all spheres in a short period of time to embrace a vibrant present that makes it the cynosure of the world and a beacon for the best in everything it touches," a statement added.
More than 6,000 stores across Dubai are expected to participate in the festival and offer consumers attractive discounts.
The city will also host activities until February 3 to provide entertainment for the shoppers.
A black light show will be held at the Mall of Emirates this weekend as part of the festivities. The famous Arabic musician, Omar Khairat, will also appear at Dubai World Trade Centre tonight.
The first edition of the festival in 1996 attracted a total of 1.6 million visitors, who spent more than Dh 2.1 billion, the organisers said.
The number of visitors and money spend continued to increase yearly until it reached more than 3.6 million visitors, who spent a total of Dh 15.1 billion in 2011.
There were no available figures regarding the number of visitors or money spent last year.
Margret Rosa, a 34-year-old Filipino administrator who accompanied her two children to Creek Park,tt said the show was entertaining.
"My children loved it and was so full of joy and life," she said.
Firework shows also occurred at the Heritage and Diving Village, Al Seef Street and Festival Promenade to mark the start of the festival.