Liwa: Some 250 kilometres away from Abu Dhabi into the Western Region, 340 Emirati men and women were married on Friday night in one of the largest mass weddings in the UAE.Audio: Marten Youssef reports from the wedding (mp3)
This tradition, started by the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, was introduced to encourage Emirati men and women to marry one another. Chairman of the festival, Rakan Al Qubaisi, says the tradition has been enriched since it was introduced.
"The whole purpose of this tradition was the royal families wanted to bear the cost of the weddings, so as to not hamper young men and women from getting married," Al Qubaisi said.
As a traditional wedding can cost Dh350,000, a mass wedding under the patronage of the royal family is an attraction to many young men, women and their families.
The idea of the mass wedding was introduced at the start of the fourth Liwa Date Festival, with just 20 couples expressing interest.
"Word spread quickly throughout the Western Region and today 170 grooms are here to celebrate," Al Qubaisi said.
In keeping with tradition brides held a small celebration with their families before leaving for their honeymoon.
For 23-year-old Ahmad Al Monsour, it was an offer he could not refuse.
"I decided about a week ago to get married. My family arranged for me to get married and we thought it was a great idea to celebrate with all of my brothers and people," Al Monsour said.
The mass wedding is costing the festival Dh4 million.
"There is no way my wedding would be this big and elaborate if we were to do it on our own. There are 7,000 people here tonight," Al Monsour said.
This mass wedding was the first of its kind in the Western Region. The largest flag in the Western Region was also flown high above the crowd as a symbol of the nation's unity, organisers said.