ABU DHABI // Hundreds of families from across the country headed to the big top last night to witness the theatrics of the world-famous Big Apple Circus. More than 600 tickets were sold for the opening show of the circus's first appearance in the Middle East, organisers said. The doors to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre were opened earlier than planned to avoid long waiting for the families.
Some had travelled all the way from the Northern Emirates to attend what they said was an "unmissable" experience. Most had never seen a circus before. They were there to be thrilled by dazzling, gravity-defying displays by trapeze artists, tumbling acrobats, jugglers and clowns. And they were not disappointed. The internationally acclaimed show, which features eight acts with 16 performers, but no animals, opened with a stunning display of manoeuvres by an acrobat using one hand.
Eagerly anticipated was the Wheel of Death, in which two acrobats are placed tightly inside a wheel which spins faster and faster. "I wanted to surprise my family," said Samawal Ahmed, a 28-year-old Sudanese, who took his brother, sister and aunt from Ajman to see the show in what was a surprise outing for them. "This is a new experience and I expect to have a lot of fun," said Mr Ahmed's brother, Qutaiba, a student at Bristol University in Ajman.
Yahya al Shehi, an Emirati, travelled from Ras al Khaimah with six of his family. "I don't have any idea of what I will see but I hope it will be something extraordinary and the family will have fun," Mr al Shehi said. Abdulaziz al Baloushi, from Abu Dhabi, had taken his four children to see the show because "this is the best thing going on in town", he said. He said his children were excited. "This show does not happen all the time. It could be once in a lifetime," said Mr al Baloushi. "They can do the other things later, other things can wait."
Richard Haddad from Lebanon said his two children were circus fans. They had seen circuses in the United States and Paris, but it was their first experience of the Big Apple Circus. "There are people who travel to see this event and we are here, so we have to come," said Mr Haddad. "The kids love the circus and will definitely enjoy it." For Joseph Llovit, 34, from the Philippines, the circus was a chance for him and his girlfriend to make up for what they missed in their childhood.
"We both have never seen a circus before and we wanted to see what we missed when we were kids," he said. "I heard it is a great show and we actually saw some of their videos on YouTube. It is a great circus." The Big Apple Circus is running until August 3 as part of the Summer in Abu Dhabi Festival. Dhafer al Qassemi, event planning executive at Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, said: "Our focus in the summer is families.
"The circus is thrilling. We want to make sure children have an experience they will never forget." With tickets costing Dh200 for adults and Dh75 for children, it was an expensive night for Hisham Khalil, from Sudan, who took 13 members of his family. But it was worth it, he said. He was also able to take advantage of a special festival offer of buy one ticket, get another free. "This is a great chance for us to see the show. My brother in the US recommended the show and I bought the tickets," he said.
"Only two of them [family members] saw a circus before, in the US. They are all very excited to see the show." Before the show started, Stephanie Courdy, an American, reassured one of her two children that no one would fall. "He is afraid someone would fall but both can't wait to see the show," said Mrs Courdy, who was accompanied by her husband and two children. "I think I am the most excited to see the show among them."