Yacoob Abba Omar (right), and Moine Kandil, General Manager of Millennium Hotel Abu Dhabi, during the press conference at the hotel on Wednesday, to announce South African week. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: There will be a week-long festival celebrating South Africa's 16th anniversary of its Freedom Day, the Embassy of South Africa announced at a press conference at the Millennium Hotel yesterday.

"April 27 is celebrated as Freedom Day to remember the contributions and sacrifices of all South Africans towards the achievement of our democracy," South African ambassador Yacoob Abba Omar said.

The celebrations, which will run from today until April 30, include a display of artistic creations that are unique to South Africa as well as live entertainment provided by Cape Minstrels.

"There is a strong emphasis on using recycled items in South African art, such as plastic, paper, bottle caps. As for the Cape Minstrels, they have a long and rich history within South Africa and their performance will help reflect our diverse culture and heritage," Abba Omar said.

The festival will also help to highlight the relationship between the UAE and South Africa, as well as reflect how the bond between the two countries has grown since the embassy's establishment in 1995.

"In 2002, total trade in South Africa amounted to $300m, while in 2008, it was $2b. Of that, exports in 2002 to the UAE were $200m and in 2008 that figure jumped to $1b. The UAE is our largest export market in the Middle East and is 23rd in our list of world export countries," the ambassador said. "Additionally, from December 2009 to January 2010 alone Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, visited our country twice and Emirates Airlines as well as Etihad frequently fly to various destinations in South Africa," he added.

South Africa is also gearing up for the influx of visitors expected as excitement for the Fifa World Cup 2010 increases.

"For those wishing to travel to South Africa to watch Fifa, we are using a unique system whereby all you need to do is show your World Cup ticket. You will then be granted a special 60 day exit visa and when you enter the country, your visa will bear a special stamp with the logo of the World Cup," Abba Omar said. "We are expecting 10 million foreign visitors to South Africa this year, and 400,000 to 450,000 for Fifa alone," he added.

Events in Dubai

  • April 22: A gala dinner at Jebel Ali Golf Resort
  • April 23: A family day at the same venue. This will feature as a major highlight a game between South African Rugby Legends and a British & Irish Legends Team.
  • April 24: Golf Day, also at the Jebel Ali Golf Resort.Visit www.saweekend.com  for further information and to purchase tickets for these events.

Abu Dhabi events

  • April 25: Millennium Hotel will be launching a week-long South Africa Food Week, with a chef especially flown in from their sister property in Cape Town.
  • April 26: Also at the Millennium Hotel, there will be the launch of the South African Arts and Craft Exhibition and Sale.
  • April 29: Millennium Hotel will be hosting a Gala Dinner which will feature great SA cuisine and entertainment.
  • April 30: The Abu Dhabi-based South Africans will be having a family day at the One-to-One. Contact Nsizwa Khumalo, 050 818 4060.