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The Guinness World Record sand art created by Filipino sand artist Nathaniel Alapide. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The UAE has set another Guinness World Record — this time for the world’s largest sand image — and the man behind it is Filipino sand artist Nathaniel Alapide.

Commissioned by Abu Dhabi Sports Aviation Club (ADSAC), the sand art covered an area of more than 250,000 feet or 76km, which, when stretched from end to end, is equivalent to the distance between Sharjah and Jebel Ali, passing through E11/ Sheikh Zayed Road!

It was an enormous creative endeavour to say the least. Alapide worked for 30 days, with the help of ten assistants, to complete the task and set a new Guinness World Record for the world’s largest sand image at 250,450 square feet, breaking the previous world record of 170,890 square feet made at Dubai’s Al Qudra Lake by a group of Emirati volunteers two years ago.

To create the texture and tone of the sand art, Alapide used four colours of sand from the UAE desert. He also utilised 150 trucks, each carrying 80 tonnes of sand. He first sketched a drawing of the sand art on a piece of paper and with the image embedded in his mind, he started doing the artwork on sand with just a single tool — a hand-held garden rake. Proud and satisfied, Alapide said: “We had a few challenges, especially the strong winds that blew away the light sand and we had to fix the images more than five times. Special and heartfelt thanks to the ADSAC management who believed that I could make this dream come true.”

Tribute to UAE

Mohamad Altamimi, CEO of ADSAC, explained the massive sand art is a tribute to the UAE. He said: “There are no words to adequately express our feelings and how proud we are to add this new world record for our capital and the UAE.”

“The sand image is in memory of late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founding Father of the UAE, late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, and in honour of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and Rulers of the Emirates,” Altamimi added.

Most beautiful feeling

Alapide told Gulf News: “I’m deeply honoured to bring this record to Abu Dhabi. It’s the most beautiful feeling, when you finally see your idea in its physical form and establish a new world record.”

Alapide, who works full-time as a sand artist at Rixos Premium Dubai JBR, is actually no stranger to making massive sand arts. He has previously collaborated with big brands, including Nike, Burberry, and most recently, with design company Palmwood to create sand arts.

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Nathaniel Alapide with the Guinness World Record citation. Image Credit: Supplied

He had created a 30x40-metre sand art last year, featuring the Hope Probe entering the Mars orbit. Prior to that, he had wished Emirates Mars Mission bon voyage with a 15x30-metre sand mural before it was launched from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre almost two years ago. In 2019, Alapide created a 4x6-metre artwork of Hazzaa AlMansoori, the first Emirati astronaut, wearing a Sokol spacesuit and flashing the three-finger salute symbolising win, love and victory, before his trip to the International Space Station (ISS).

Space, sand and arts

Alapide said he too had once dreamt of becoming an astronaut. He was nine when his dreams of space adventures began. He reminisced: “When I was a kid, I would climb up to the roof of our house on a full-moon night and dream about becoming an astronaut.”

But fate had a different plan for him. He became an artist and instead painted portraits of astronauts and spaceships on canvases, and also on sand.

Hailing from Antipolo, a known artists’ haven in the Philippines, delving into the arts was second nature for Alapide. It was grief and his bid to seek solace that led him to create his first sand art in Dubai. In a previous interview, he had told Gulf News that her grandmother had died in 2014 and he wanted to pay his tributes to her.

“She pretty much raised me,” Alapide said. So, he grabbed a rake and headed to the public beach in Jumeirah and started sketching on the sand. “I made a big drawing of a tree and while I was creating that, I found it very meditative, he added, saying that the tree was very symbolic of his grandmother’s nature of giving. It took him three hours to complete his first sand art. The result surprised him and it all “started from there”.

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Nathaniel Alapide being presented the award for the largest sand art. Image Credit: Supplied

Alapide said he had done countless sand arts, some larger-than-life recreations of famous paintings, including one of Mona Lisa, while the others were his own ideas and some were requests from hotel guests.

Alapide said he got inspiration from his surroundings and from news and current events. At the height of the pandemic, he created a Stay Home message to remind people to stay safe by remaining indoors. He also creates sketches from the books he reads,and people he meets every day.

Fleeting but gratifying

A regular day for Alapide starts hours before dawn, when he checks the tide forecast and determines the optimal time for him to go down to the beach and make his art.

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One thing about his art is its impermanence. “It is really fleeting but always gratifying,” he noted, adding: “Everything depends on the tide. It has to be low, so I can have a large area to work on. I create something in the morning, people get to see and appreciate it. But at night, the tide takes it away. And that’s where the magic and excitement kick in. I can do another work of art the following day.”

With a Guinness World Record already in his kitty, Alapide said he would continue doing sand art. “It is the process of creating art that makes it special and gratifying. It also sends a message that you really have to be there in the present moment to enjoy it,” he said.