Thousands of residents and tourists welcomed the New Year at Global Village. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman /Gulf News

Dubai: More than a million people from across the world came to Downtown Dubai on New Year’s Eve to usher in the Year of Tolerance amid a splendid display of fireworks and laser show that bid farewell to 2018’s Year of Zayed with a special tribute to the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE.

Massive crowds gathered to watch the fireworks displays at the Burj Al Arab, The Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Festival City, Global Village and Burj Khalifa. Crowds had gathered at Burj Park and in Dubai Mall to get a closer view of the Burj Khalifa fireworks hours before the event.

People erupted in cheers as the celebrations at the tallest tower in the world kicked off at 11:57pm with the laser show dedicated to Shaikh Zayed. Revellers thoroughly enjoyed the pyrotechnics that returned after a year’s gap and lasted for more than five minutes interspersed with a laser show displaying the heritage of the UAE, its achievements in various fields and future Mars mission Hope.

The grand fireworks and illumination of Burj Khalifa won Emaar two additional Guinness World Records — for ‘Largest LED-illuminated façade’ and ‘Tallest LED-illuminated façade’. Tens of thousands also flocked to Abu Dhabi Corniche, Yas Marina Island, Atlantis, Al Seef Street, Sharjah Waterfront and Al Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah to watch fireworks.

A family from Denmark said they just fell in love with Dubai on their first visit for the New Year celebrations.

Jan Riis and his children, Emma Sofie and Philip, were among the people who got special tickets with restaurant reservations that gave them access closer to Burj Khalifa to view the fireworks.

Jan Riis and his children Emma Sofie and Philip. Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News

Running a construction firm back home, Riis said he was floored by the skyscrapers and architecture in Dubai.

“It is a fantastic experience. We loved everything here and we even had a special experience that made us so impressed about Dubai,” said Riis.

“My son lost his telephone in a taxi the other day. You know it is 15,000 taxies to look into... But this morning at 6 o’ clock the taxi driver came to the hotel and delivered the phone to us. We just love Dubai.”

He said his daughter Emma Sofie has been so impressed with Dubai that she said that if ever she has to move out of Denmark she’ll be shifting to Dubai.

“That’s not often that I feel so about a country...Nice’s clean..I feel safe,” Sofie added.

As we welcome 2019, we look forward to new hopes, dreams and ambitions in our continued belief that nothing is impossible. I wish the people of the UAE, Arab region and the world a happy new year filled with peace, tolerance and compassion.

- His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai

Balqis Biogun who came here to celebrate her third New Year in Dubai from Nigeria brought along her friend Adesola Waliyat this time. “I’m always excited to be in Dubai. This place gives me a lot of happiness. Happiness means freedom and tolerance. Dubai is the place for that,” said Biogun, who works in a salon back home.

Balqis Biogun (right) with her friend Adesola Waliyat. Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News

Waliyat, a businesswoman, said she was excited about spending the New Year in Dubai after she heard the experiences of Biogun.

Igor Vodoleev and son Anton dressed as Santa Claus. Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News

Igor Vodoleev and son Anton Vodoleev from Russia came dressed as Santa Claus extending the spirit of Christmas to New Year in Dubai. Five lucky couples from China, India and the Middle East also got an opportunity to fly to Dubai for free to witness the New Year’s Eve festivities.

Delighted at the collective efforts of our people in 2018 and look forward to 2019, the Year of Tolerance. Our people’s hard work and dedication help us march ahead powerfully. We look forward to peace and security prevailing across the world.

- His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces