Sheikh Zayed Festival opens in Abu Dhabi with epic drone show in the night sky

Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Festival has opened in Al Wathba, bringing desert festivities and cultural traditions to the emirate.

From November 18 to March 18, the cultural event began with an epic drone show over the desert.

Hundreds of drones formed moving images in the night sky – depicting President Sheikh Mohamed, founding father of the United Arab Emirates, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and the late President Sheikh Khalifa.

The drones also depicted falcons and Arabic messages.

Visitors to the opening night also enjoyed a fireworks display and plenty of festive entertainment, including fairground rides and a glow-in-the-dark garden.

A military heritage music performance and a traditional song and dance performance were also part of the opening night.

Guests also enjoyed the first of several Emirates Fountain shows – with the towering fountain coming to life with music, lights and over 600 water jets.

Under the theme Hayakum, which means welcome in Arabic, this year’s Sheikh Zayed Festival continues the event’s tradition of honoring local customs and showcasing the heritage of the United Arab Emirates.

Lasting four months, this family-friendly event features light shows, a house of horror, horseback riding, camels and go-karting.

There is also a children’s area specifically for families. A colorful flower garden includes 400,000 flowers imported from the Netherlands.

Indian dancers on the opening day of the Sheikh Zayed Festival in Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi.  Chris Whiteoak / The National

New this year is the Art District, where visitors can participate in acrylic casting workshops. The Emirati Civilization Pavilions showcase Sheikh Zayed’s role in nation building.

This year’s festival will also show all the action from the World Cup in Qatar, with large viewing screens showing the matches. Large celebrations are also planned for the National Day and the New Year.

The festival features more than 15 theaters which will regularly present several cultural and entertainment events.

It has more than 25 pavilions from countries around the world, each showcasing traditions, products, crafts and food.

Updated: November 19, 2022, 08:29

James C. Tibbs