Sri Lankan Day 2018: A big hit in the UAE soil

  • One of the largest gathering of Sri Lankans outside Sri Lanka
  • Offered many activities for the participants to involve throughout the day
  • Sri Lankans displayed their solidarity towards the UAE through a friendship walk

More than 25,000 Sri Lankans gathered at Zabeel Park, Dubai on 09th of February 2018 to take part in the Sri Lankan Day 2018, which was the first of its kind ever taken place in the UAE soil. The Sri Lankans, Emiratis and other nationals across the UAE actively involved in this unique and family-oriented event, which bonded all the participating Sri Lankans together as a single nation, on the bedrock of nationhood.

The ceremony commenced with the blessings of religious leaders, representing four main religions of Sri Lanka. They invoked their blessings on the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Dubai, the organizing committee and the other stakeholders to continue the task, which focused on promoting the motherland at the occasion coinciding the 70th Anniversary of Sri Lanka’s Independence and 25th Anniversary of the establishment of Sri Lanka’s Consulate General in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

The event offered a number of diverse activities to the gathering at the Zabeel Park to be engaged throughout the day. Five Sri Lankan restaurants offered unique Sri Lankan delicacies such as, plain hoppers and egg hoppers, kotthu roti, lunu miris, rice and curry to the Sri Lankan and international crowd at the event, fulfilling their taste buds. In addition, a Sri Lankan food photographic competition called “Suupachaya” was held with the aim of promoting the Sri Lankan food/cuisine among the international crowd and thereby to popularize such food/cuisine globally.

On the outskirts of the Amphitheatre of the Zabeel park, the stalls selling the Sri Lankan items such as tea, handicrafts & batiks etc. were located, which had been very useful to the crowd participated at the event. Additionally, experts representing the property developers of Sri Lanka participated at the event and provided tailor-made property solutions to the Sri Lankans those who were enjoying the event, representing various socio-economic sectors of Sri Lanka. Providing much needed services specially focusing on the blue-collar workers, such as opening up NRFC, other bank accounts and etc, the stalls of the local banks such as National Savings Bank, Bank of Ceylon and Commercial Bank also added a quintessential commercial flavor to the event.

The free medical camps established in the park were one of the most distinctive features in the event. Many Sri Lankan and international doctors joined hands with the event to provide much needed medical assistance to the participants, specially representing blue-collar or low-income groups. Over 20 doctors representing 6 different nationalities rendered their volunteer services to the participants during the event, on free of charge basis.

Moreover, a donation of over 380 free spectacles along with lenses to the needy people was executed in parallel to the medical camps. This donation was given based on eye-testing and on first come first serve basis. It earned a lot of accolades of many low-income workers who couldn’t afford the same.

The blood-donation camp at the event was a major highlight among the crowd. It intrinsically symbolized the friendship of the Sri Lankans towards the people and the Government of the UAE, which is considered as a ‘second-home’ by many of the Sri Lankan expatriate community in the UAE.

Along with the above highlights, a free mobile dental camp was also established in the site by the University of Sharjah, which, per se, provided an immense service to the low- income participants, as dental check-ups are usually not covered under the insurance schemes. Throughout the day, the mobile dental camp provided a service worth thousands of Dirhams to the crowd on complementary basis.

Keeping the family-oriented nature of the event, a special entertainment program was arranged during the daytime for local talents to show their singing skills. During this specific segment, more than 10 pre-selected upcoming singers had the opportunity to show their singing skill to the mass audience at the venue supported by the music of two UAE based musical groups, i.e. Acoustica and Seven Notes. The attractions like bouncy-castles and an arts competition for children were also adored by the children at the event.

Adding an unforgettable Sri Lankan experience to the evening of the Sri Lankan Day 2018, over 2500 Sri Lankans representing various groups, associations, organizations and schools marched into the park with a fabulous “UAE- Sri Lanka friendship walk” filled with pomp and pageantry, which was highly applauded by the foreign crowd gathered at the venue. The line-up of the walk was filled with distinctive items portraying cultural diversity of Sri Lanka consisting of traditional Sinhalese, Tamil and Malay items. The segments such as “Kasa Karuwo”, the band of the old girls of Holy Family Convent and the children wearing colorful costumes in their traditional dances enthralled the onlookers at the venue.

The UAE- Sri Lanka friendship walk concluded leading to the formal national day celebrations that included the evening cultural show, organized by the leading artist guilds across the UAE, and enriched with spectacular “up country” and “low country” traditional dances together with Tamil and Malay dances. An opera type of drama portryaing the whole history of Sri Lanka starting from King Vijaya to the present times was staged, sustaining the enthusiasm of the gathering at the event until its end.

With the view to promoting Sri Lanka as a much sought-after destination among the international crowd, a special wall, portraying the history and tourist attractions of Sri Lanka was also set up at the location in addition to a huge welcoming arch decorated with historical symbols and two lion statues, inspired by the Yapahuwa sculpture. Just beside these attractions, a photo booth was located enabling the participants to make the visit to Sri Lankan Day 2018 a memorable one by taking a photo in printable format.

Delivering the official address at the event, the Consul General Charitha Yattogoda said ”the foreign remittances from Sri Lankan expatriates are still the number one foreign exchange source for the Sri Lankan economy and we respect your contribution made for the economic development of our motherland. Let me use this occasion to place on record my sincere appreciation and gratitude, on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka, to the Sri Lankan community based in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, for the immense support they rendered throughout the year, shoulder to shoulder, in all of our endeavours.” He further added that “it is my strong desire to see my countrymen projecting and representing our land in this region as goodwill ambassadors of Sri Lanka. As a person who strongly believes in solidarity, which will usher us into a better future, let me invite all my fellow countrymen to join hands as a one nation in promoting Sri Lanka’s rich values in this part of the world and to make our motherland proud.”

The final segment of the event was the grand musical show featuring the Sri Lankan artists specially flown in from Sri Lanka to perform at the event with the leading Sri Lankan band “Naadha”. Mr. Edward Jayakody, Mr. Keerthi Pasquel, Mr. Athma Liyanage and Ms. Nirosha Virajini entertained the gathering with their popular songs in addition to the variation added by Mr. Dumal Warnakoolasooriya from “Naadha” band with Tamil, Hindi and English songs. The event concluded peacefully at 11:30 pm.

Happy Holidays company, a renowned travel and leisure company based in the UAE, LuLu Hypermarkets, one of the leading hypermarket chains in the Middle East and RAK Bank, a prominent bank in the UAE have joined the event being the main sponsors. In addition, Sri Lankan Air Lines, leading exchange houses and the universities based in the UAE joined the event as co-sponsors.

This is the first time that an event of this calibre, focusing on the mass crowds, was hosted in the soil of the UAE. The event, which was organized by the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Dubai and Northern Emirates in association with the Sri Lankan community living in its jurisdiction, earned a lot of positive feedback from the participants and the Sri Lankan Community.

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