UAE says Happy New Year with record-breaking fireworks, ball drop, shows; as it happened

Relive all the action that happened on the last day of 2021

By Anjana Sankar, Dhanusha Gokulan, Ashwani Kumar & Sherouk Zakaria; Multimedia: Neeraj Murali, Shihab, Rahul Gajjar & M. Sajjad

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Published: Fri 31 Dec 2021, 4:48 PM

Last updated: Mon 30 Jan 2023, 5:07 PM

Another year of Covid-uncertainty has come and gone, but the moment we have all been waiting for is here - a new year, a fresh start, 2022.

And the UAE pulled out all the stops to dazzle the world.

Ras Al Khaimah broke two Guinness World Records with its fireworks show. The breathtaking fireworks were accompanied by a crescendo of modern and dynamic music to reflect a new spirit of optimism that was echoed in the UAE leaders' New Year's greetings.

Meanwhile, Expo 2020 Dubai amazed the crowd with a Times Square-inspired midnight ball drop that counted down the seconds to 2022.

As the world battles yet another variant of the coronavirus, the UAE projected hope by hosting an array of celebrations across the country to welcome 2022 with positivity - with strict Covid safety measures in place, of course.

Relive all the action that happened on the last day of 2021.


Latest updates

12am, 2022: The moment we have all been waiting for is here

The UAE smashed multiple world records as it hosted over 30 fireworks and shows across the Emirates to ring in 2022.

11.35pm: Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall Metro Station closed

Alternatively, RTA has said people can use the Financial Centre and Business Bay Metro stations.

11.13pm: Expo 2020 Dubai set for ball drop

The 'midnight ball drop' is one of the main attractions at Expo 2020 Dubai.

DJ star Dimitri Vegas is set to thrill crowds at Expo’s Jubilee Park from 11.30pm, while Armin Van Buuren will electrify revellers with his set at 1.30am.

Fireworks will light up the night at midnight and at 3am.

11:04pm: Inclusivity comes first

Special care has been taken to accommodate people of determination and help them enjoy the New Year's Eve celebrations.

The Dubai Mall has designated specific spots for people of determination so they can watch the fountain shows and fireworks.

10.51pm: Crowd builds at Ain Dubai

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With 2022 fast approaching, more and more people are flocking to Ain Dubai in Bluewaters Island to catch the fireworks.

10.45pm: Emirati singer Eida Al Menhali wows crowd

Eida Al Menhali performed during the Sheikh Zayed Festival in Abu Dhabi.

10.26pm: Something for all ages

In addition to enriching cultural programmes, the Sheikh Zayed Festival in Abu Dhabi hosted a series of performances to delight viewers of all ages.

10pm: Countdown begins

With just two hours left until the grand celebrations, revellers have donned their party hats and 2022-themed glasses to ring in the new year.

9.40pm: Double-checking safety preparations

Lt-Gen Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, commander-in-chief of Dubai Police, as well as the Events Security Committee, are carrying out final checks to secure the New Year's Eve celebrations.

9.27pm: Ain Dubai visitors amped up for fireworks

Upbeat DJ tracks are setting the mood at Ain Dubai, where revellers are celebrating New Year's Eve in a socially-distanced setting.

9.18pm: 850 volunteers to ensure safety

Khaleej Times caught up with a volunteer-run frontline group that ensures the event is safe for all attendees.

Husain Al Balooshi, the programme manager of Sanid and Takatof, volunteer-led organisations under the Emirates Foundation, said a total of 850 volunteers were deployed at Burj Khalifa and Downtown Dubai on Friday.

The organisation works in collaboration in Emaar and government entities to ensure all safety protocols are followed.

9.03pm: A dazzling display of culture

Cultural programmes have begun at the Sheikh Zayed Festival in Abu Dhabi.

8.57pm: Mesmerising parade wows crowd in Majaz

Colourful parades were the centre of attention at Al Majaz Waterfront just hours before midnight.

8.39pm: UAE rulers send New Year greetings to world leaders

President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has sent cables of congratulations and New Year greetings to world leaders.

Sheikh Khalifa wished them good health and more progress and prosperity to their peoples.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, also dispatched similar cables on the occasion.

8.28pm: Dubai is 'ideal' for having the safest New Year, say tourists

Nicole Longhi and her husband Francesco from Italy wanted to have the safest New Year and they thought Dubai is ideal.

“Your chances of getting Covid in Italy is much higher than in Dubai. And the weather is perfect. So, we thought if we are taking the risk and travelling, be that to Dubai,” said Longhi.

8.12pm: Drone show dazzles JBR

Spectacular drone show lights up skies of JBR, celebrating the traditional symbols of UAE, including the coffee 'dala' and 'burqa'.

8.04pm: Expo 2020 alerts remind visitors to stay safe

Expo 2020 Dubai visitors get safety alerts on their mobile phones reminding them to follow Covid safety protocols, including wearing masks and following social distancing.

8pm: Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed welcomes 2022 with hope and optimism

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, welcomed the new year with optimism for the future.

On Twitter, Sheikh Mohamed wrote: "We welcome the new year with hope and optimism for the future and a shared determination to continue building on the achievements of our nation. May the year ahead bring peace and well-being to the people of the UAE and the world."

7.55pm: 'Peace prevails and future blooms in Dubai'

Christopher van Dierendonck, 19, and his mother Astrid van Dierendonck have flown from Germany to celebrate their New Year in Dubai.

“I am an avid traveller and wanted to experience all the country pavilions at Expo. I felt good the moment we stepped in to the Dubai airport, where thorough safety measures are being followed,” said Dierendonck.

His mother Astrid, a piano teacher, said she chose Dubai because there is peace and prosperity.

“I am interested in going to places where peace prevails and future blooms. I saw it in Dubai,” she said. “I want my son to remember this trip and treasure everything that he sees here."

7.47pm: Rain fails to dampen festivities

Rainfall across Dubai and the wider UAE, including the Expo 2020 site, has not impacted operations, organisers have confirmed.

“For 13 hours, visitors will be able to celebrate New Year's Eve with the world at Expo 2020 Dubai,” organisers said in a statement to Khaleej Times.

“With enhanced safety measures and countless family-friendly outdoor activities, it’s the perfect place to see in 2022, enjoy exciting entertainment and experience cultures from across the globe.”

7.35pm: 'We are pinching ourselves; Dubai is like a dream'

Jana Daignaulg, her husband Garry, and family from Canada are visiting one of their daughters in Dubai.

“We are pinching ourselves. Dubai is like a dream,” said Garry.

Jana added: “Dubai was leading the world in vaccination rates. It is clean and safe. People are so wonderful here. As Covid infections are rising across the world, we feel safer in Dubai as people are masking up and everyone is vaccinated,” said Jana.

7.15pm: How Dubai Police are ensuring Covid safety

The Dubai Police are doing their part to ensure the New Year's Eve celebrations are both safe and enjoyable.

Take a glimpse at how the force is securing New Year's celebrations and implementing strategies to ensure smooth traffic flow and crowd management in compliance with Covid-19 measures.

7.12pm: Get a free ride to Expo 2020

The Expo Rider bus service will give free rides to Expo 2020 Dubai visitors. Nine departure stations are available across Dubai, as well as other emirates.

7.03pm: First-ever daytime fireworks

The first-ever daytime show celebrated New Year 2022 in Australia. Seven more firework shows are scheduled at Dubai's Global Village to mark the beginning of a new year in a different country around the world.

7pm: Another key Dubai road closed

The Upper Financial Centre Road is now closed in both directions, the Dubai Police said in an update.

6.45pm: Share your 2022 wishes on Burj Khalifa

Messages sent by residents and tourists are being beamed on the world's tallest building.

Master developer Emaar had tweeted earlier: "Don’t forget to share your wishes for 2022 in the comments using #EmaarNYE22 for the chance to appear on @BurjKhalifa."

6.35pm: Expo 2020 mascots welcome visitors

Rashid and Latifa are just as excited about the New Year's Eve festivities as anyone else. The Expo 2020 mascots were seen welcoming visitors to the Al Wasl Plaza.

6.25pm: Another road closure announced

The Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard is now closed. Previously, the lower Financial Centre Rd and Al Asayel St. were closed.

6.23pm: Expo 2020 visitors seated for show

Visitors seated at the Al Wasl Plaza for the 6.30 pm show. The 13-hour long New Year celebrations have started at the world fair and the venue is fast getting filled as families pour out to ring in 2022.

6.20pm: Free tickets for all Expo 2020 visitors

Expo 2020 Dubai visitors were in for a surprise on New Year's Eve. All attendees received a free Expo 2020 pass.

6.10pm: PCR test mandatory for Abu Dhabi residents

Attendees must show green status on Alhosn app, have a negative PCR test from the past 48 hours, wear a mask and observe social distancing.

6pm: Covid safety comes first, say health care workers

South African health workers Samantha Pillay and her colleague came from Abu Dhabi to watch the fireworks in Dubai.

They advise residents to celebrate safely by keeping their masks on, social distancing and sanitising.

"Curbing Covid-19 is everyone's responsibility. What people do today will be what we see and deal with as healthcare workers over the coming year."

5.54pm: The UAE looks forward to more achievements in 2022, says Sheikh Hamdan

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, extended his New Year's greetings to the community.

Taking to Twitter, Sheikh Hamdan wrote: "We look forward to more achievements and giving in 2022 for the sake of the elevation of our country and the happiness of our people."

5.51pm: Key road closed

The Dubai Police have announced the closure of the Lower Financial Centre Street. Earlier, the authorities had closed Al Asayel Street.

Residents can use public transport or alternative roads: Al Khail Rd., Mohammed Bin Zayed Rd., Al Wasl St., and Jumeirah Rd.

5.46pm: The last sunset of 2021

Residents at Al Khan Beach in Sharjah gather to watch the last sunset of 2021.

5.43pm: Delays in bus services

Current weather conditions have caused delays in Dubai bus services, the RTA said.

To get confirmation on the schedule of journeys, users are advised to contact the Customer Happiness Centre at 8009090.

5.32pm: 'No place like Expo to ring in the New Year'

Aiman Hassan, his wife Amal and their three kids have travelled all the way from Al Ain to celebrate New Year at Expo 2020 Dubai.

“There is no place like Expo to ring in New Year. We want to watch the fireworks and the Ball Drop at Al Wasl Plaza.”

5.08pm: Sheikh Mohammed extends New Year greetings

Taking to Twitter, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, extended his New Year wishes to the community.

"We welcome the New Year 2022 with optimism, confidence and preparation for the best," he wrote.

4.54pm: Crowds gather at Expo 2020 Dubai

4.51pm: Stage set for celebrations at Ain Dubai

Ain Dubai at Bluewaters Island is all set to welcome the New Year in style.

4.39pm: Al Asayel Street now closed

Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced that Al Asayel Street towards the Burj Khalifa area is now closed.

Motorists are advised to use public transport or alternative roads: Al Khail Road, Mohammed Bin Zayed Road, Al Wasl Street, and Jumeirah Road.

4.36pm: Steel barricades set up in Dubai Mall

Steel barricades have been set up at all the elevators in the first and ground levels of Dubai Mall. Scores of residents from all over were seen trying to make their way to the main Dubai Fountain area.

4.30pm: Know what goes into putting up the Burj Khalifa show

Months of planning have gone into organising this 'most magical show'. A total of 177,958kg of fireworks will be used in coordination with 10,400 firing orders and 1,235 firing directions. As many as 274 light fixtures are being used, in addition to 60 laser projectors.

4.01pm: Rain lashes Dubai; RTA swings to action

Number of locations and key highways in Dubai experienced waterlogging following the downpour on Friday and work is underway to remove water accumulations.

Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) swung into action to restore smooth traffic flow in the Emirate.

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