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What It Was Really Like To Spend New Year’s Eve 2014 In Dubai

Happy New Year, friends!

Last year Mr. T and I were in Paris for New Year’s Eve and we were disappointed that there were no fireworks to ring in the new year.

This year, we figured that if any city were going to go big for the New Year, it would be Dubai so here we are!  Coincidentally, Dubai decided that not only was it going to go big for the New Year, it wanted to set a new Guinness World Record for the biggest fireworks display EVER.

400,000 – 500,000 fireworks.

Set to music.

Over 50 miles of coast line.

A display so beyond anyone’s imagination, it promised a “sunrise” at midnight, a fireworks flying falcon, and a ginormous fireworks display to replicate the UAE flag.

To give you an idea of how farfetched this plan is, the current world record was set by Kuwait with a mere 77,000 fireworks. Dubai didn’t just want to beat the world record; it planned to destroy it.

Hearing this, our excitement level was up and we set on a search to figure out how best to spend New Year’s Eve… which wasn’t easy, partly because of the size of Dubai.  The emirate of Dubai is huge at almost 1,600 square miles and the metro area is likewise spread out.  The areas of interest to tourists is spread over 19 miles!  It takes almost 30 minutes just to drive that on an expressway.

Geographically, that makes watching the fireworks difficult.  Should we watch it at the Burj Kalifa, the tallest building in the world, which will be the one that is broadcast world wide?  Or, should we go to the Palm Islands to catch the world record fireworks event?  The two icons are at opposite ends of the city so visitors are forced to make a choice between the two – there’s just no way to get front row seats to both!

Every option we explored to view the fireworks was not without its disadvantages:

  • If we opted to watch the show at the Burj Kalifa, we’d have to battle traffic jams to get there, stake out a spot early on, and then battle the gridlock on their way out.  I read warnings ahead of time that unless you’re staying by the Kalifa, it’s not advised to go there for New Year’s Eve.
  • The story is the same if we opted to go to one of the public beaches to watch the fireworks over the coastline.
  • In order to see the show at the Palm Islands, we would have to buy tickets beforehand or know someone who lives on the island since the city’s closed off access to the Islands.
  • There were also hotel parties all over the city – each one promising that they had the “best” view of the city… along with exorbitant prices for the privilege.

Assessing the options, we quickly nixed any option that required battling the traffic.  Just look at this traffic below our hotel:


Our only option was to attend the festivities at our hotel or watch the fireworks from our hotel room.  We were thisclose to attending the hotel party until we saw the sweet view we had from our hotel room.  We had a view of both the Burj Kalifa AND the coast line.  Plus, with the TV on, we’d actually get to hear the music that the fireworks were set to.

Here’s where the night went…. well, kind of array.  This is also the part that you’ll never read about in the media because all they will show are strategically edited replays of the spectacle.

With all the hype about the world record fireworks, the stoke of midnight only prompted fireworks at the Burj Kalifa. Don’t get me wrong, the fireworks at the Kalifa were spectacular, but what about all the people who were waiting to ring in the new year on the beach or the Palm Islands?  Where were their fireworks?!  They didn’t get their fireworks until around ten minutes after midnight, which was well after the fireworks at the Kalifa had ended — and all they got was a paltry display around the Burj Al Arab (the hotel that looks like a sailboat).  We saw parts of this show from our room and when it ended, we were convinced that the whole world record attempt went haywire.

At 25 min after the hour, we were about to give up (as were the hosts on the TV) and then out of the blue, we saw the biggest fireworks display light up the coast.  AND it was HUGE – so huge, there was no way anyone could capture all of it in one photo or one video.  Tens of thousands of fireworks launched simultaneously… and yes, even put to music.

Here’s a photo we snapped from our room.  We were actually looking “down” at the fireworks.


This was what we had been waiting for!  Blast after blast.  Red, green, and white bursts over and over again.  It must have been nuts for those on the ground, but at least we were able to catch multiple fireworks shows in the city from our vantage point.  This was the fireworks show to put all other shows to shame – even the two earlier ones in Dubai!

One picture doesn’t do it justice, so here’s a video of the show:

After six minutes, it was all over.  The next big question on TV was whether it was big enough to hold the new world record.  The big question for Mr. T and I, however, was where the heck was the “sunrise” at midnight, the flying falcon, and the UAE flag?!  Yet, no one was talking about this.  It was as if the reporters completely forgot about it, their attention instead on the jaw-dropping display they just saw.  And that’s what will be reported outwards to the rest of the world, too – the phantasmic fireworks show and how Dubai’s claimed yet another superlative to add to its record books.

That was the odd thing about all this.  As awesome as the show was, we are convinced it didn’t go off as planned.  Why wait a whole 25 minutes after midnight to launch the display (recall, the people at one location can’t actually see the fireworks in the other side of the city)?  If they planned it to start after the first two fireworks shows, why were there awkward pauses in between both?  And were the firework sunrise, flying falcon, and flag so unimaginable that they were too unrealistic to pull off even for a city that’s garnered a reputation for pulling off the impossible?  In our minds, Dubai had an ambitious idea but it was poorly executed.

I hope I’m not discounting the spectacle and Dubai’s world record attempt, which I’m sure must have beat out Kuwait’s record by miles.  Also, seeing it in person was pretty awesome.  But the way everything played out felt like something must have gone awry… but you’ll never see that story in the media reports.

On a positive note, however, ringing in the New Year with fireworks is better than not having any, and witnessing a world record fireworks attempt in person is just the bonus!

Overall, 2013 has been an awesome year for us with all the traveling we were able to squeeze in and a bunch of big personal milestones as well.  We are looking forward to 2014 and wish everyone the happiest, healthiest, and brightest year yet!

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Nathalie - November 12, 2015 - 4:42 am

What It Was Really Like To Spend New Year’s Eve 2014 In Dubai…

Can i ask which hotel you were staying in??

thank you

JustWanderlust - November 19, 2015 - 10:08 pm

Nathalie – This was the Sheraton.

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