600-member team, 7 global artists: How Sharjah dazzled the world with its stunning light festival

Mosques, dams and forts across the Emirate sparkled in a hue of colourful patterns for 12 nights

by

Sahim Salim

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Sharjah mosque
Sharjah mosque

Published: Mon 20 Feb 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 20 Feb 2023, 10:04 PM

Buildings and mosques came alive for 12 nights straight as the Sharjah Light Festival painted the Emirate in a hue of colours. The 12th edition of the festival, which ended on February 19, saw 600 employees, workers, and volunteers come together to put on breath-taking displays at 13 locations.

Planning for the event began in December 2022, with the shows seeing the light in a “record time” of three months, a top official told Khaleej Times.

“The 2023 festival welcomed seven international artists, along with a group of emerging ones,” said Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA).

Kalba tower
Kalba tower

From February 8 to 19, cold nights lit up as mosques like Al Noor, Sharjah and Sheikh Rashid bin Ahmed Al Qasimi; and heritage sites like Sharjah Fort (Al Hisn), Al Rafisah Dam and Kalba Clock Tower, and other locations across the Emirate, basked in the warmth of stunning projections. Lights formed characters that told stories to the tune of epic orchestral music.

Rafisa dam
Rafisa dam

“The Sharjah Light Festival presented shows and performances inspired by the traditional heritage of the Emirate of Sharjah, the geometry, motifs, calligraphy, and patterns of Arab and Islamic architecture that characterise its landmarks,” Al Midfa said. “The Emirate of Sharjah has a distinctive architectural character, and its monuments and buildings have engineering details that reflect its identity and culture.”

A special committee chose the locations to highlight the “aesthetics and details” of the architecture and designs.

“When selecting sites, we are keen to ensure they are in harmony with the light shows and accompanying music, which reveal the subtle details of these buildings, and highlight the originality of Sharjah and its position as a hub for Islamic architecture, arts, and calligraphy,” added Al Midfa.

Khalid Jasim Al Midfa
Khalid Jasim Al Midfa

Saying it with lights

The shows shed light on scenes from the Emirate’s journey, “which reflect the advancements made in various fields such as education, arts, environment, history, science, and others”. The displays also outline perceptions for a bright future, added Al Midfa.

“The performances focus on the impact of art in the world and its place in the future, and the role of both culture and knowledge in overcoming the difficulties and challenges that face the nations of the world.”

The Light Village

Photo: M Sajjad
Photo: M Sajjad
Photo: M Sajjad
Photo: M Sajjad

This year’s edition of the festival included a 19,000sqm space that hosted over 40 UAE-based food, beverages and sweet vendors. It featured a Light Museum, a lit-up basketball court, games for children, roaming shows, and paintings by emerging artists, among others.

Photo: M Sajjad
Photo: M Sajjad
Photo: M Sajjad
Photo: M Sajjad
Photo: M Sajjad
Photo: M Sajjad

History and future

According to Al Midfa, the Sharjah Light Festival has been a major annual event on the Emirate’s tourism agenda for 12 years now.

“The event offers dazzling light shows that reflect the progress the Emirate of Sharjah has made in various fields, outlining its aspirations for a bright future. Every year has seen the addition of a new innovative technique or celebration of a new addition to Sharjah’s prestigious awards and honours.”

In the 2014, the show celebrated the emirate’s Capital of Islamic Culture award, while in 2017, technological advancements allowed for an exciting interactive mapping installation which encouraged visitors to become part of the show.

“The festival has gone through several developmental stages that contributed to its expansion, success, and growing popularity.

“The authority is always looking to attract the most prominent international artists to highlight the latest destinations and landmarks in Sharjah, as well as to provide more services to the public in each of the festival’s sites.

“The SCTDA will keep up these efforts to develop the event, in line with the evolving and growing tourism sector,” Al Midfa added.

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