Grooms of 20 nationalities attended the first ‘Zayed Arab Mass Wedding’ at Sharjah Expo Centre Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: A mass wedding for 250 Arab expat couples was held in Sharjah on Saturday, following a Dh11 million donation by a UAE businessman.

Each couple received Dh30,000 and gift vouchers in the ‘Zayed Arab Mass Wedding’, held at Expo Centre by the Arab Family Organisation (AFO).

According to the organisers, this was the first time a mass wedding for Arab expats has been held at this scale in the UAE. It is instead more common to see Emirati mass weddings in the UAE.

A parade during the mass wedding in Sharjah. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf News

Saturday’s wedding title reflects the ‘Year of Zayed’ (2018), celebrated in 2018 by the UAE as a tribute to its founding father, the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

AFO chairman Jamal Bin Obaid Al Bah said Emirati businessman Abdul Rahim Mohammad Al Zarouni sponsored the event, donating more than Dh11 million for the mass wedding.

The 500 brides and bridegrooms — all long-time UAE residents, many of them born in the UAE — were from around 20 different nationalities. They included grooms from Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Yemen, Palestine and other countries who live in the UAE.

A group performs UAE’s traditional dance during the ceremony. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf News

Most of the couples were aged between 28 and 33 years.

Guests, who included family members, friends and colleagues of some of the couples, were treated to folk shows from the UAE, Palestine and Sudan, as well as a gala dinner. Guests also included shaikhs from the UAE, and diplomats and ministers from Arab countries.

Al Bah said this is the first time the AFO organised the Arab mass wedding and it hopes to organise another one next year.

“This is a way to show them that UAE is their home, many of them have been part of the UAE’s growth. Their parents have been doctors and teachers in the country. This is a ‘thank you’, a way of giving back to them,” Al Bah said.

On Saturday, the grooms wore traditional Emirati attire for the wedding.

‘Efficient wedding’

Al Bah said mass weddings help young people celebrate their marriage.

An energetic rendition of a traditional Lebanese dance captivated the grooms and the guests alike. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf News

AFO, established over 47 years ago, works with governments, companies and NGOs in the Arab world for the welfare of Arab families through various programmes.

“Usually for many Arab families, weddings are costly. This mass wedding is ‘efficient’ in terms of wedding costs. It’s a new culture in the UAE that first started with Emirati mass weddings. Usually there’s support from a single person or entity who gives the money for establishing the mass wedding,” Al Bah said.

Newly-wed Sudanese expat Mohammad Rifaat, 28, said: “This initiative is welcomed as it helps people get married,” said Rifaat, who works for Sharjah Municipality.

Ebrahim Mohammad, another 28-year-old from Sudan, said he plans to travel to Sudan in three months to have a wedding party for his family there.

“Here in Sharjah, with the mass wedding, it was faster and easier for me to get married,” Mohammad, who works for Khalifa Foundation, said.

Sponsors support

UAE telecom firm etisalat has provided a dedicated channel for 30 days on the event called “Arab Wedding” — Channel 54 — on its eLife service. Etisalat also provided Social Media support, including live broadcast from the event.

Dr Ahmad Bin Ali, Group Senior Vice-President, Corporate Communications, etisalat, said: “We are honoured to support the first ‘Zayed Arab Mass Wedding’ in line with our CSR strategy and value to support all sectors of the society. Etisalat has a dedicated channel on eLife to screen the event on ‘Channel 54’ and on live feeds across our social media platforms. Etisalat wishes all the newly married couples a happy and prosperous life.”

Other sponsors included Abu Dhabi Media, Novo Med Hospitals Group, Fast Constructions Company, and Watani Al Emarat Foundation.