What to expect from the annual celebration of kites
The third International Kite Fiesta soars into the city on January 17. Event organiser Uttam Kumar tells Benita Adesuyan what to expect on the day, and reveals his plans for starting a team in Dubai to take on the world.
For the third year in a row, The International Kite Fiesta will be brightening the skies of Dubai this month, with a dazzling array of Technicolor tethered aircraft. Fiesta organiser Uttam Kumar, 27, was inspired to create the event by his own childhood experiences, growing up in Hyderabad, South India. ‘We started making our own kites and I had my own kite stall when I was in college,’ he says. ‘It was the only activity I was allowed to do in my spare time.’
Kumar is managing director of Tamquest, the company that organises the event, and since launching three years ago, interest in the feista has continued to grow. Kumar flew his kites on the beaches here in Dubai and his brightly coloured swift kites drew attention from other enthusiasts – and the festival took off from there.
In his home country, the kite festival has a traditional Hindu heritage and is part of a harvest festival called Makar Sankranti, which takes place on 14 January. The festival heralds the beginning of spring – the beautifully designed kites form part of the celebration. But Kumar explains that this event at Dubai Outlet Mall is open to everyone. ‘The fiesta is not a cultural festival and it’s not only for Indians – anyone at all can come and it’s open to all nationalities,’ he adds. ‘We have international kite teams coming to Dubai for the event, they came last year and we’re inviting them back – one team from Kuwait, one from Sri Lanka and four teams from India, and we’re happy to accept more.’
The fiesta is non-competitive and the teams create their own extravagant kites, the majority of those that will be displayed this year will be handmade creations and spectators will be treated to a visual spectacle as more than 100 loop and dance in the sky.
‘The different teams have their own specialities and designs like the white tiger, birds, octopus. There are so many different shapes and you need really good skills to fly these kites – some are between 20ft and 40ft long’.
It’s designed to be a family day out and small kites can be bought at stalls so you can try to fly your own, and children will be entertained with a kite-making workshop, bouncy castles and camel rides.
Kumar says he has seen the popularity of the fiesta increase in three years, and the annual event is now part of the Dubai Shopping Festival even though Dubai doesn’t have quite the same culture for kite flying as countries like India, America and the UK. But he is optimistic that will change: ‘It’s not a very popular sport here, but it is improving. You don’t have people out here selling kites in shops or markets, so we’re going to be setting up an online portal where you can buy different shapes of kites. We hope to have it in place within three months. Kite flying is fun in this part of the region, and I’m pretty sure that in a few years it will be a big sport.’
Flying a kite takes little skill, but as anyone who’s ever attempted to get one airborne will confess, it can be very tricky to get them going, and hopefully the breeze plays its part on the day.
Kumar hopes that on the back of the fiesta, a Dubai kite flying team can be created, bringing together groups of people with a passion for the activity to design and create stunning models.
Fanciful kites will fly all day, and a carnival atmosphere will be brought by a DJ playing party tunes, and there will be a food court, with the grand finale taking place in the evening. As the sun sets, organisers plan to release 5,000 Chinese lanterns into the dusk sky, symbolising the unity of the cultures and people gathered together. Dhs30 per person, January 17, 10am-6pm, Dubai Outlet Mall, Al Ain Road, www.facebook.com/tamquestofficial (050 9200713).
Fly your own
Getting your kite airborne shouldn’t be too hard – as long as there is a stiff breeze in the air and your kite is well-made, you’ll be up and away in no time.
It takes two If you’re a beginner, you’ll need a hand holding the kite up before it launches. Get a friend to hold the string while you hold the kite a couple of feet ahead of them. The kite should be facing you with your back to the wind. If the wind is behind the kite, it won’t launch.
Make room Give yourself some space to release the kite. Release 10 metres of thread and ask your partner to back away from you to this distance. Make sure there are no obstacles near where the kite will set off from.
Wait for the wind When you feel a gust of wind, signal to your buddy to release the kite. Pull on the string to provide tension and launch it into the air.