UAE celebrates New Year with fireworks and social distancing

Onlookers hit with colour and noise as Burj Khalifa fireworks light up the night sky

Thousands of revellers across the UAE welcomed the New Year in style on Thursday, enjoying spectacular fireworks displays at a social distance.

At the stroke of midnight, loud cheers echoed through Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the Northern Emirates as well-wishers bid farewell to a turbulent 2020.

The New Year's scenes looked decidedly different from years gone by because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Dubai, families and friends, clad in face masks, gathered in Downtown Dubai to catch a glimpse of the world famous Burj Khalifa fireworks and laser light display.

Onlookers were hit with a blaze of colour and noise as the night sky lit up when fireworks blazed outwards from the world's tallest building.

Partygoers stood apart on floor stickers and wardens patrolled the streets to ensure strict safety protocols were being followed.

Although restrictions were in place and the crowds were smaller than in years gone by, residents and tourists were able to have a safe and celebratory night.

Before the show was under way, Burj Khalifa displayed the flag of each country as they entered the New Year and intermittent fountain displays set to songs from around the world kept revellers entertained as the clock counted down to midnight.

Tribute was paid to frontline workers, giving thanks for "our heroes" during a challenging year.

The UAE’s 2021 celebrations were every bit as jubilant in the other six emirates.

Abu Dhabi city played host to dramatic fireworks displays in four locations, including Yas Island, Al Wathba and Al Maryah Island.

Onlookers on the Corniche enjoyed a dazzling spectacular against the backdrop of the Arabian Gulf.

On Yas Island, fireworks roared through the sky after being let off from Yas Marina Circuit, illuminating the local hotels and theme parks.

Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Festival had a dazzling fireworks display that lasted for 35 minutes to welcome 2021.

It set two Guinness World records for the show. The first record was set for the longest-running fireworks show, which ran continuously for 35 minutes with fireworks launched from 16 towers.

The second was for the longest Girandola fireworks show in the world.

Both shows were held amid strict precautionary measures. The Festival's organising committee distributed free masks and sanitisers and ensured that social distancing norms were observed, while also checking the temperature of visitors at the entry gate.

In Ras Al Khaimah, the emirate did little to disappoint as it set off 8,500 kilograms of fireworks for a jaw-dropping, 10-minute display that stretched more than 4km along the coast on Al Marjan Island.

Crowds were unable to gather at the popular New Year’s Eve spot but they could tune in to social media to watch the display live.

Guests at nearby hotels also enjoyed the colourful views from afar as they rang in 2021.

"We are sending a message of positivity to the world from here in Ras Al Khaimah, urging people to move forward with confidence after what was an unprecedented year," said Abdulla Al Abdouli, a member of the event organising committee.

Before the celebrations, authorities across the country urged the public to celebrate the New Year safely and help to battle a rise in Covid-19 cases.

Dr Saif Al Dhaheri, spokesman for the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, emphasised the need to abide by Covid-19 safety measures while ringing in 2021 at public and private gatherings.

Dr Al Dhaheri highlighted the importance of wearing masks and adhering to social distancing rules.

On Thursday, the UAE's leaders wished the country and the world a happy and prosperous new year.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said 2020 had been a year of challenges and accomplishments.

"A year in which the true values of our country appeared, a year in which we proved that we are the strongest in our unity, in our tolerance, by our giving,” he wrote on Twitter.

“I wish well-being to my country and the Arab world with each passing year. May mankind move forward towards a brighter, better and greater future.”