DSF gets off to a glittering start

DUBAI - Dubai Shopping Festival 2004 got off to a glittering start at a grand ceremony at Al Seef Street.



The show commenced with a spectacular display of fireworks, easily the best that Dubai has seen till date. It was followed by a video of the sail of a traditional ship changing into the Burj Al Arab. A barge, with a desert scene enacted on board, floated up to a prominent place in front of the dais, and docked there for the duration of the show. There were 25 camels on board, lounging peacefully in the care of their keepers. A Falconeer, on the stage, beckoned to his falcon on the barge, and it flew out to him, perching on his hand.

The ceremony, held under the patronage of General Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister, was attended by Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Information and Culture, Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Department of Civil Aviation, Chairman of the Emirates Group and Head of the Supreme Committee of Dubai Shopping Festival, Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Board, Mohammed bin Rashid Establishment for Young Business Leaders, Shaikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone Authority, Saeed, Majed and Mansour, the sons of General Shaikh Mohammed and Shaikh Hasher Maktoum, Director-General of the Dubai Information Department.

Dubai Shopping Festival 2004, in keeping with the tradition of exceeding expectations each year, has already started off on a grand scale, and will not disappoint. With over 200 official activities and events, and every nook and corner of the city transformed into a festival zone, the month beginning today will be chock-full of options for all ages. It sure is going to be a challenge to try everything out before February 15.

If the opening ceremony that was witnessed in Dubai last night is any indication of things to come, this should easily be the most spectacular, colourful and option-filled DSF yet. A line-up of immense proportions, not only of manpower and skill, but also of artistic and technical wizardry, defined the grand opening ceremony, performed before an enthusiastic and receptive audience at Al Seef Street. In keeping with the theme of DSF, 'One World, One Family, One Festival', there were 1,500 people leading the opening celebrations, including local performers, regional Arab performers and troupes as well as from many other parts of the world. The sheer magnitude of the event was dazzling - the colours, the performers, the lights, the sound, the choreographed movements - all put together in one seamless tapestry, performed to the world on the background of Dubai's famous skyline and its lifeline, the Creek.

The show commenced with a spectacular display of fireworks, easily the best that Dubai has seen till date. It was followed by a video of the sail of a traditional ship changing into the Burj Al Arab. A barge, with a desert scene enacted on board, floated up to a prominent place in front of the dais, and docked there for the duration of the show.

There were 25 camels on board, lounging peacefully in the care of their keepers. A Falconeer, on the stage, beckoned to his falcon on the barge, and it flew out to him, perching on his hand.

A group of Arabic musicians, 'Al Harbiya', were the first to appear on stage, presenting traditional Bedouin chants, very poetic and accompanied by the 'Rababa'. This style of music, known as 'Al Hida'a', was historically sung by all the members of the caravan to keep spirits high during the hard and dangerous travel across the desert.

There was a holographic image projected onto the stage area, recreating a virtual desert, and a wonderful scene to see the paved street converted back into rolling sand, a reverse picturisation of UAE's meteoric growth.

About 100 children begin to appear on stage, bringing in fresh enthusiasm and cheer, and picturesque laser images and magnificent fireworks accompany them. They sang a song, composed specially for the event.

They were in traditional Emarati attire. The barge, meanwhile, had transformed into an image of the Dubai that we now know so well. The two floats following this represented two civilisations, with a feast of colours, music and superb choreography.

The audience was pleasantly surprised to see 60 stilt-walkers, who lent a surreal air to the evening, yet moved so gracefully and elegantly that it even seemed natural. Six Kings representing the Middle East, Far East, Europe, Africa, Australia and America followed, regally decked up and looking like splendid monarchs.

A display of extreme skill on the part of the flag throwers had watchers holding their breath, and the picture they presented was complete when children came running from all directions, bearing different flags themselves. The total number of flags seen on stage was 50, representing many different parts of the world.

The Indian, Mexican, Lebanese floats passed by in a few gripping moments, with bright and attractive colours and costumes, the movements and dances superbly coordinated.

A band brought up the rear of this float, leaving the audience dazed in the aftermath of the special colours, dances and music of the subcontinent.

With the fireworks again lighting up the skies of Dubai, the Egyptian, Eritrean, Russian and African Zulu tribes and many more international troupes float captured that audience's attention. They led the parade, and many more nations were represented, following close on the heels of each other.

As if on cue to involve the young ones, fireworks lit up the sky and the entire scene in front of the audience was redecorated in a circus style.

Acrobats performed a variety of stunts and a whole range of performers presented their special styles. Toy floats with many depictions of children's favourite characters begin to appear and the scene is made even more like a party by the confetti flying around.


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