Hiba Khan looks at the Longest Painting at Dubai Autodrome. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Dubai: More than 20,000 students, teachers, parents and activists came together to create the world’s longest painting on Saturday, as part of a campaign to raise awareness about autism.

The painting that measures 10.85km beats the three-month old record of 10km long painting held by a Chinese group. The previous record was also created by schoolchildren.

A Guinness World Records official, who was present to witness the world record at Dubai Autodrome, confirmed the successful attempt to create the world’s longest painting.

“It’s official, Dubai now has the world record for the longest painting measuring 10.85km. We physically measured the painting twice and are happy to award another interesting record to Dubai, which is the city with most records in the region,” said Samer Khallfouf, Project Manager of Guinness World Records, Middle East and North Africa.

The eight-month long campaign titled ‘I’m Different Just Like You’ was spearheaded by Al Tayer Group in partnership with Dubai Autism Centre, involving children from schools managed by Taaleem and Gems Education groups.

Children from the age of two to 18 years were involved in the campaign that saw them take part in a series of assemblies, where they learnt about autism and the importance of being more accepting of the differences of their peers. Each participating child painted a self portrait holding the hand of another child symbolising the importance of connecting with others.

“We wanted to do something different and special to create awareness, so we came up with an idea of running a campaign that would engage children. We have been running campaigns to improve quality of education and interact with schoolchildren in order have a positive impact on them. We have been doing this through various programmes over the last few years. This year our team decided to create greater awareness about the challenges faced by autistic children,” said Khalid Al Tayer, CEO Retail, Al Tayer Group.

Autism affects one in every 88 children in the world.

“A lot of our members are passionate about helping and touching the lives of children in a positive way and this campaign stemmed from the fact all of us wanted to do more and create awareness about autistic people that they may be different, but they are like us,” he said.

He added: “We thought the best way to do this is through a sustained campaign in a fun way, by engaging children in a painting programme.”

Initially, the idea was to do a 7km long painting, which was a world record then, but around three months ago a new world record was set in China, which was around 10km and that forced the campaigners to set a new target.

Commenting on the event, Ros Marshall, CEO Taaleem said: “We are proud to be part of this successful campaign that involved students from our 10 schools and created awareness among all of us about the challenges autistic children face and how to behave with them. The Al Tayer team has done a great job in engaging with our students in a fun way, while delivering an important message. We are privileged to be part of this new world record.”