Pop star Mariah Carey kicked off the 365-day countdown to Expo 2020 Dubai on Sunday as she called on thousands of screaming fans to “be there” for the opening next year.
Seven events to mark one year until the Expo were held across the emirates to get the whole country excited about the world fair.
At the special free concert at Burj Park in Dubai, Carey took to the stage in a gold sparkling gown, belting out classic songs to a cheering crowd.
“I’m so excited to be here at an event being celebrated across the country. It’s so festive here in Dubai,” the American singer-songwriter said.
Carey opened her set with A No No, a hit single from her most recent album Caution.
She followed it up with all-time favourite, Dream Lover, released in 1993, as the audience sang along.
“Make sure to be there [at the Expo 2020] next year,” she told the audience.
The singer stuck to fan favourites, singing songs from the '90s and early 2000s including Let it Happen and I'll be There.
Waving to fans, many of whom danced while cradling young children, Carey kept the 7,500-strong crowd engaged by chatting about her songwriting and asking if they knew remix versions.
While singing Always be my Baby she was joined on stage with her eight-year-old twins, Moroccan and Monroe, who sang a few lines from the chorus.
Moroccan then broke into a few dance moves and told Carey: “You will always be my mommy.”
Carey came to the stage shortly after a fireworks display and laser light show emanated from Burj Khalifa at 8.20pm.
Enthusiastic fans gathered an hour before the event, eagerly anticipating the star-studded performances that also included a set by Emirati crooner Hussain Al Jassmi.
“I’m such a huge Mariah fan and sing her songs to my children so they know her too,” said Jessy Lucas, from Britain, who brought three children to the Burj celebrations.
“With Mariah here in the UAE one year before the expo, it will be amazing to know who will the main acts during the expo.”
Sulaiman Al Marri, an Emirati, said his family were torn between heading to Ajman to hear soul singer Chakram or staying in Dubai to watch Al Jassmi perform.
“This is really exciting because we feel that expo is really almost here,” said Mr Al Marri, a human resources manager.
At 7.30, Al Jassmi brought the crowd to their feet for a medley of Arabic fusion and national songs.
Across the country were simultaneous performances by poets, oud musicians, Arabic fusion bands, and Egyptian, Syrian, Pakistani and Indian singers, in anticipation of Expo 2020 Dubai.
Live shows were held at Louvre Abu Dhabi, Sharjah's Al Majaz Waterfront, Ajman Museum, Fujairah Fort, Ras Al Khaimah's Al Qawasim Corniche and the Umm Al Quwain Corniche.
The entertainment was a prelude to more than 60 live shows that will be held daily when the expo opens on October 20. The fair will run for six months, ending on April 10, 2021.
Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Co-operation and the expo’s director general, said the spectacular nationwide celebrations ushered in “the final leg of a historic journey".
“The next 12 months will see us put the finishing touches to ensure an exceptional World Expo,” Ms Al Hasimy said.