UAE says Happy New Year 2023 with record-breaking fireworks, drone and laser shows; as it happened

Khaleej Times records celebrations all over the country in the last hours of 2022 — all the way to the first moments of 2023

By Nasreen Abdulla, SM Ayaz Zakir, Waheed Abbas, Ashwani Kumar, Rahul Gajjar, Shihab, Neeraj Murali, Sahim Salim, Kirstin Bernabe, and Supreeta Balasubramanian

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Published: Sat 31 Dec 2022, 3:58 PM

Last updated: Sun 1 Jan 2023, 12:55 AM

The UAE welcomed 2023 in style. Three world record bids, fireworks in dozens of locations, drone shows, star-studded concerts — 2022's New Year’s Eve celebrations were set to be a spectacular affair across the Emirates.

Revellers rang in 2023 with festivities free of Covid-related restrictions for the first time since the pandemic hit. Parties marked the end of a momentous year for the country, with the UAE Vice-President vowing to make 2023 “even more beautiful”.

With journalists spread out across the country, Khaleej Times brought you the best of all the celebrations as the UAE lit up the last night of the year with hope.

Here is what happened in the last hours of 2022, and first hours of 2023:

12.30am: Party is not over in Abu Dhabi

Fireworks were still going strong in Abu Dhabi, as the record-breaking 40-minute show continued in glorious bursts of light and sound.

12am: Happy New Year, UAE!

It’s finally happening! For those celebrating in the UAE, it’s a happy new year indeed. Record-breaking fireworks and laser, water and drone shows are going off simultaneously at nearly 40 venues across the UAE as 2023 dawns in the country.

The world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, is serving as the world’s biggest launchpad for a spectacular show that combines lasers, lights and fireworks. You can watch live coverage here.

Residents were able to witness fireworks near another iconic location in Dubai - the Burj Al Arab.

The highly anticipated New Year’s Eve fireworks at the Sheikh Zayed Festival in Abu Dhabi will last for more than 40 minutes, aiming to break another world record.

Additionally, 3,000 drones are putting on a show to remember in the UAE Capital.

About 250km away, Ras Al Khaimah is using pyro drones, nano lights, colours and shapes choreographed to electric beats as fireworks light up the sky in another record-breaking bid:

Sharjah put on an amazing show as well, with breathtaking fireworks lighting up the night sky.

11.55: Burj Khalifa celebrates lifting of Covid restrictions

We are "closer than ever" now, according to the Burj Khalifa. A show referring to the lifting of Covid restrictions was displayed on the iconic tower, drawing cheers from the crowd just minutes before the clock struck 12.

11.50: Thousands at Al Majaz Waterfront

Thousands of residents have thronged Al Majaz Waterfront in Sharjah to watch eight-minute-long New Year fireworks. Neighbourhoods such as Al Qasba and the Flag Island are also crowded with visitors to watch the spectacular fireworks. Various police vehicles are also in the area to ensure the safety of the spectators.

11.32pm: Last show of the year

The last fountain show of 2022 began at Dubai Mall, marked by the graceful movements of the water and beautiful music.

11.30pm: At half an hour to go for the new year, spectacular sight for crowds in Abu Dhabi

In a jaw-dropping spectacle, 20,000 balloons were released at Sheikh Zayed Festival in Abu Dhabi, capturing the attention of crowds at the facility. It is packed to capacity ahead of drone and fireworks show.

11.23pm: Culture, heritage take centre stage at Sheikh Zayed Festival

While fireworks and drone shows were set to wow crowds, culture and tradition were also among the highlights of the Sheikh Zayed Festival in Abu Dhabi

11.15pm: Drone show wows crowds at Jumeirah

Visitors and residents were enthralled by the DSF Drones Light Show at Bluewaters and The Beach, JBR. The free-to-watch performances involve hundreds of drones to entertain crowds with spectacular lights, and patterns and messages in the night-sky.

11.10pm: Metro station closes for the night

RTA announced that the Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall Metro Station is now closed. Alternative stations that can be used are the Financial Centre and Business Bay Metro Stations.

11pm: Fireworks brighten the skies as Global Village welcomes 2023 in Pakistan

The fifth set of fireworks at Global Village wowed visitors at 11pm as Pakistan ushered in new year 2023.

Two more shows await visitors as part of Global Village’s ‘night of seven midnights’ celebrations: UAE (12am) and Turkey (1am).

10.50pm: 10 minutes to go for New Year in Pakistan

Once again, dancers took to the stage in Global Village 10 minutes before 2023 began in Pakistan, wowing visitors with traditional dances.

10.43pm: Medical teams on standby spring to action when woman complains of dizziness

A wheelchair is provided within minutes of a woman complaining of feeling dizzy.

Hundreds of medical volunteers, search and rescue team members, and emergency vehicles are at Downtown Dubai to deal with any kind of emergency.

10.35pm: DJ spins popular tracks, security ramps up Downtown

Additional barricades and security reinforcements are being put in place as midnight draws closer and people throng into the Downtown area.

Meanwhile, the crowds stay happy as DJs spin popular numbers from Burj Park to entertain the thousands who have gathered to watch the Burj Khalifa fireworks.

10.30pm: Global Village celebrates New Year in India with fireworks

India stepped into new year 2023 at 10.30pm UAE time. And the night sky over Dubai’s Global Village lit up as the park put up its fourth set of fireworks.

Three more shows await visitors as part of the attraction’s ‘night of seven midnights’ celebrations: Pakistan (11pm), UAE (12am) and Turkey (1am).

10.20pm: 10 minutes to go for New Year in India

Indian folk dancers took to the stage in Global Village to wow audiences, 10 minutes before fireworks were set to light up to ring in 2023 in India.

10.18pm: Road closure updates; alternative routes provided

RTA announced that in addition to the Upper Financial Centre Road, Al Sukook Street is closed as well. The authority urges people to either use public transport or to reach their destinations using alternative routes such as Al Khail Road, Al Wasl Street, and Jumeirah Road.

10.05pm: Ras Al Khaimah all set to break records

Ras Al Khaimah and Al Marjan Island are ready to break records this New Year. A dazzling musical firework display is set to take place, and will aim to create new world records. Featuring pyro drones, nano lights, colours and shapes choreographed to electronic beats, the event will see a 12-minute fireworks display that will light up the night sky.

Covering a 4.7km stretch along the waterfront between Al Marjan Island and Al Hamra Village, visitors are in for a jaw-dropping pyro-musical.

10pm: Night sky lights up at Global Village to celebrate New Year in Bangladesh

Global Village’s third set of fireworks dazzled visitors as the park marked the new year in Bangladesh.

Four more shows await visitors as part of the attraction’s ‘night of seven midnights’ celebrations:

India (10.30pm), Pakistan (11pm), UAE (12am) and Turkey (1am).

9.55pm: Traditional dance from Bangladesh five minutes before New Year in the country

Dancers at Global Village performed a traditional dance as they and the audience waited for fireworks signalling midnight - and a new year - in Bangladesh.

9.52pm: Camping out to see fireworks

Families turned out in droves to camp at Sofouh Beach in order to catch the fireworks at Burj Al Arab. Visitors appear fully prepared with tents, lighting, and refreshments to weather the wait.

9.50pm: 10 minutes to go before New Year in Iran

With just 10 minutes to go before it becomes 2023 in Iran, traditional dancers took to the stage to entertain the crowds with a lively Iranian folk dance.

9.36pm: Colourful lighting at interactive show in Global Village

Visitors at Global Village are enjoying the time between fireworks with entertaining shows. An interactive performance at the Global Village main stage involved the audience syncing their light sticks with the performers on stage, engulfing the space in beautiful lighting.

9.30pm: Estimated 600 guards in Downtown Dubai to safeguard area

Crowds inside Dubai Mall begin to increase as the evening wears on. One security guard estimates that at least 600 guards are in and around the entire Downtown area, in addition to Dubai Police and other security personnel.

9.30pm: Visitors flock to Sheikh Zayed Festival as last hours of 2022 begin

All the entry points to the Sheikh Zayed Festival in Abu Dhabi are jam packed with visitors. People are gathering to see the spectacular shows and entertainment the festival has to offer, including an attempt to break three world records at midnight.

9.19pm: Free public bus service for those celebrating

RTA provides free buses free of charge in the Abu Dhabi direction, from the Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall metro station to Al Safa metro station.

9.15pm: Celebrating their first New Year's Eve as newlyweds

Ranveer Singh and his wife Kanwal Jeet have decided to enjoy their first New Year celebrations after their wedding in Al Majaz Waterfront Sharjah.

“It does not matter whether it is Sharjah or Dubai, I have my wife with me. So everything is good for me,” says Singh smilingly.

Singh has watched the previous three new year celebrations in Dubai but it’s the first celebration for Kanwal Jeet here in the UAE.

“We got married last year. This is the first time we are celebrating the New Year here. I have been to this place alone but I’m here with my wife for the first time,” adds Singh.

Residents of Sharjah, the new couple have decided to take a round at Al Majaz and enjoy some coffee before settling down for the New Year celebrations.

“We’ll walk around and then decide where to sit and watch fireworks. We are looking for a good place to have food and enjoy the view. We are thinking of booking a seating here,” said Kanwal Jeet.

Starting from Dh250 per person and going over Dh500 per person, the rates are a little pricey, according to many couples. A table of four can also be booked for Dh2,000. “It’s a bit pricey because there is no a la carte but buffet only. But this is how it is on New Year,” adds Kanwal Jeet.

9.10pm: Smooth crowd control at Dubai Mall thanks to staff

Barricades and hundreds of security staff ensure that everything runs smoothly at Dubai Mall. Elevator directions have been changed and visitors are being ushered in an orderly manner towards the fireworks viewing area.

Like last year, no guests are being allowed into the area of Dubai fountains unless they are diners or special pass holders.

9pm: Global Village welcomes Thailand's New Year with more fireworks

Another set of new year fireworks has lit up Dubai. As Thailand ushered in 2023, Global Village marked the occasion with a countdown and a show.

This was the second of its seven shows planned for the night as part of ‘night of seven midnights’ celebrations.

Five more shows await visitors: Bangladesh (10pm), India (10.30pm), Pakistan (11pm), UAE (12am) and Turkey (1am).

8.52pm: RTA announces another road closure

RTA announced that Upper Financial Centre Road will be closed, in the direction from Sheikh Zayed Road towards Al Khail Road. Motorists have been asked to seek alternative routes when faced with road closures.

8.50pm: 10 minutes to go before New Year in Thailand

With Thailand just a few minutes away from 2023, a traditional Thai dance is performed at Global Village.

8.37pm: Crowd surges in Downtown Dubai

More people are gathering around the epicentre of the action in Dubai. Photos show people lined up in cars and on the pavement outside a hotel in Business Bay. Most of those gathered are tourists who could not make it in time to watch the fireworks at Burj Khalifa.

8.15pm: Festive atmosphere in Abu Dhabi

Thousands of people at Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Festival, where multiple world records are set to be broken. A 40-minute fireworks show will attempt to break three records in quantity, time and formation. A giant drone show, using more than 3,000 unmanned aerial vehicles, will also light up the skies of Al Wathba.

The Organising Committee of the Sheikh Zayed Festival, which is currently taking place at Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi, has lined up a series of world-class folkloric and entertainment events and performances as part of its New Year celebrations.

8.10pm: Thousands gather at Sharjah’s Al Majaz Waterfront

Thousands of people have arrived at Sharjah’s Al Majaz Waterfront to watch the New Year celebrations.

The residents, who started arriving at 7pm, came all prepared with chairs, snacks, tea and coffees to sit and enjoy the electrifying atmosphere of the Al Majaz Waterfront, the most popular location to watch New Year fireworks and celebrations in the emirate.

The New Year celebrations began with a spectacular display of fountains show and watersport stunts.The shows began at 7.45pm, and will conclude with an eight-minute long firework show at midnight.

Restaurants at Al Majaz Waterfront have made additional seating arrangements to accommodate the rush of the New Year revellers.

8pm: Dubai sky sparkles with first NYE fireworks

New year fireworks lit up the night sky four hours before midnight in Dubai as Global Village kicked off its ‘night of seven midnights’ celebrations.

Seconds before the clock struck 8 in Dubai, a countdown led to the fireworks to coincide with the midnight in China and the Philippines. This was the first of seven shows planned for the night.

At 9pm, the park will celebrate the new year in Thailand, followed by Bangladesh (10pm), India (10.30pm), Pakistan (11pm), UAE (12am) and Turkey at 1am.

7.50pm: 10 minutes to go before New Year in China

With China just a few minutes away from 2023, artists at the Global Village perform a traditional Chinese dance.

7.40pm: Salute to workers on duty

While thousands of residents are celebrating at Global Village, many continue working so that visitors can enjoy the occasion.

"Like everyone here, we are also having a good time. I started working here a few weeks ago, but I have not seen such a massive footfall. Everyone here are jubilant. For us, it's entertainment and work," said Neeraj Maurya, a porter at the festival park.

Here's a photo of Neeraj (extreme right) with his colleagues:

7.32pm: Can't wait to see this year's NYE spectacle

They may be a bit far from the centre of the Burj Khalifa action but Sri Lankan expat Shinaz and his family are excited to see the record-breaking show planned this year.

Here's the family, who has found a spot just outside Ramee Dream Hotel at Business Bay crossing.

7.19pm: Last prayer of the year

In the middle of the early festivities, Global Village visitors took a moment to offer their last prayer of the year.

7.10pm: 'I came here just to watch fireworks, I was willing to pay the price'

Tourists Sabia Begum and Mohammed Miah arrived at the Dubai Mall as early as 10am from their hotel in Dubai Marina.

“The staff at our hotel advised us to get here early if we wanted to catch the fireworks,” said Mohammed. “We didn’t want to take a chance so we arrived as soon as the mall opened. When we came, the staff were just getting the barricades ready.”

It was then that the British couple realised that they had to reserve seats at the waterfront restaurants. “I was quite shocked at the prices,” said Sabia. “I was not expecting it to be as expensive as 500 pounds (around Dh2,200).”

However, Mohammed had come to the country determined to watch the fireworks and he was willing to pay. “Sabia was a bit hesitant but I came to Dubai just to watch the fireworks and I was willing to pay the price for it,” he said.

The couple were able to get seats at Tim Hortons. “It is a brand we have in London, too. So we decided to go for it.”

This is the first time the couple have come to Dubai for the New Year holidays. “We love the city and we keep coming back, but this is the first time we are here during this time,” said Sabia. “It is more crowded than usual but I still love the cleanliness and ease of getting things done here.”

6.58pm: Lines are getting longer

With the Dubai Mall crowd growing by the minute, long queues have formed at various parts of the shopping centre — including toilet areas.

6.45pm: Jaws drop as stunts, acrobatics take over Global Village stage

While waiting for the fireworks display, GV visitors — young and old — are treated to dance performances, stunt shows and acrobatics at the main stage of the festival park.

6.33pm: Plan your drive across Dubai carefully

The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announces the partial closure of Al Mustaqbal St. at the Burj Khalifa St intersection.

Motorists are reminded to use alternative roads.

6.25pm: Warm wishes from the UAE President

The President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, leads the nation in praying for a happy, peaceful year for everyone in the UAE and the world.

Read his New Year message here.

6.17pm: Fountain dancing its way to 2023

At dusk, the scene gets even more festive at the Dubai Mall — especially as the dazzling dancing fountains mesmerise the crowds. Diners start arriving at the waterfront restaurants, looking forward to an evening of fun and merriment.

6.10pm: Crowd check at Burj Khalifa

Wondering how big the crowd is now in front of the world's tallest tower?

On the other side, seats are neatly arranged around the Dubai Fountain:

5.55pm: 'I had to experience this at least once in my lifetime'

Indian expat Alok was born and raised in the UAE but has never watched the Burj Khalifa fireworks up front. So, this year, he decided to splurge Dh1,600 for a single seat at Starbucks that offers an unobstructed view of the fireworks.

“I felt like I wanted to experience this at least once in my lifetime, so I decided to spend the money and come here on my own,” he said.

The Dubai resident said he arrived at 3pm and left his car at the mall parking. “I came early because I didn’t want to get stuck in traffic,” he said. “The weather is beautiful and I am mentally prepared for the fact that I probably won’t leave the mall till 3am. It’s OK. I don’t mind the wait and the crowds. I am enjoying the last few moments of 2022 here. I hope that 2023 will be better.”

5.48pm: Another Dubai road now closed

Traffic will be diverted to Marasi Drive due to the closure of the Burj Khalifa Street, the Dubai Police have announced.

Al Asayel St. towards Burj Khalifa had closed at 4pm, the RTA said earlier.

Read more about road closures here.

5.35pm: A reminder from the Dubai Police

If you're stepping out to watch the fireworks — especially at NYE hotspots where big crowds are expected — avoid carrying large bags. These might disrupt the flow of people at celebration venues, the Dubai Police said in a tweet.

5.25pm: Driving to Dubai all the way from Fujairah, for the love of fireworks!

After a two-hour trip from Fujairah, Mohammed Qutub and his children are enjoying the NYE vibe at Dubai's Global Village.

"Global Village is the best place for children to celebrate. My kids were literally forcing me to bring them here, and I thought New Year's Eve would be the perfect time," he told KT.

"My children are very excited to watch the fireworks, eat, and experience the rides here at the park," Qutub added.

5.10pm: Enjoying last afternoon stroll of the year

Families and groups of friends have started gathering at Buhairah Corniche. While some have already settled down — just waiting for the fireworks — others are still walking around, looking for the perfect spot with folded chairs and picnic mats in tow.

5pm: 'I love Dubai — I could keep talking about why I love the city until tomorrow'

Alberto and Lisa Srour, along with their daughter Stephanie, were at the Dubai Mall for coffee. The Mexican family of Lebanese origin first came to Dubai at the beginning of this month but fell in love with the city, so they decided to stay for three months.

“I love Dubai,” said Stephanie. “I could go on talking about why I love this city until tomorrow but the main thing is, it is so cultured, so clean and everything is so organised.” “It is a city with a vision,” her father chipped in.

The family that has been staying at the Address Hotel planned on buying coffee and snacks and returning to their room which has a direct view of the Burj Khalifa. “It is the first time we will be celebrating New Year’s in Dubai,” said Lisa. “We are very excited for it.”

Here's the family, waiting for their coffee at the mall:

4.50pm: Don't forget to look up, first fireworks spectacle just 3 hours away!

If you are in the UAE to ring in the new year, you don’t have to wait till midnight for fireworks!

Global Village is hosting a ‘night of seven midnights’, with the first display set to go off at 8pm, coinciding with midnight in the Philippines.

It will then move on to Thailand (9pm), Bangladesh (10pm), India (10.30pm), Pakistan (11pm), UAE (12am) and finish with Turkey (1am). Each ‘midnight’ will have its own dedicated countdown and signature Global Village fireworks display.

“Don't forget to 'look up' starting 8pm for some spectacular fireworks,” Global Village tweeted.

4.45pm: Dubai Mall crowd getting bigger

Inside the Dubai Mall — the most convenient location to be at if you're watching the Burj Khalifa fireworks — the crowd is getting bigger, with people walking here and there, trying to pick a spot where they can have an easier access to the viewing areas.

4.35pm: Heading to Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd?

Here's a view of Al Asayel St, which is now closed:

4.30pm: Barricades are up at the biggest shopping mall

Huge barricades are seen all across the Dubai Mall, as people are directed along a single route. Those with restaurants bookings and reservations have been given color-coded wristbands.

4.25pm: Spaces surrounding world's tallest tower still clear — but not for long

This is how the Burj Khalifa looks right now — with people still able to freely walk around in the area.

However, in just a few hours, this scene will be entirely different as crowds start swelling up.

4.15pm: Ready to soak up last golden sunset of the year

While other parts of the city are bustling with crowds of revellers, pockets of serenity are seen on the beach where residents are waiting for the last sunset of the year.

The sun is expected to set at 5.40pm today. Here's the view on Sufouh Beach:

4.10pm: Don’t park on roadsides, motorists told

Authorities in Dubai have urged motorists to avoid parking on the side of roads. “For your safety and that of other drivers, use the public parking lots to park your vehicle on New Year's Eve 2023,” the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said.

4.05pm: Road closures begin in Dubai

Al Asayel St. towards Burj Khalifa is now closed. The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has advised residents to use alternative roads — Al Khail Road and Al Wasl Street.

Read more about the road closures here.

4pm: Revellers start pouring into Dubai's biggest NYE hotspot

Crowds are beginning to build up inside and outside the Dubai Mall as people start arriving with 8 hours to go before Burj Khalifa dazzles in spectacular fireworks.

All security systems are in place and it is an extremely organised exercise. Large bags are being checked in an extremely swift manner.

Here's a look at the queue:

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