Abu Dhabi: More than 600 members of Abu Dhabi’s Goan community packed a hotel ballroom Friday to mark World Goa Day in a first for the capital.
“Where have you been and why is this the first event in Abu Dhabi?,” said Indian ambassador T P Seetharam, the event’s guest of honour, while addressing the crowd.
Seetharam was happy to attend, he said, because he knew Goans were India’s most fun-loving people.
“You should be doing this more often so you can bring more energy to our life in Abu Dhabi,” he said.
This year marks the 16th annual celebration of World Goa Day, which itself commemorates the recognition of Konkani, the main language of Goa, as an official language in the Indian constitution.
The decision was made on August 20, 1992, by India’s parliament.
The event is marked by Goans worldwide to celebrate their culture.
The event’s lead organiser said it was important that the ambassador attended so he could help promote other events.
“Although we are a minority of the UAE’s Indian community it is important to recognise our culture,” said Conrad Caeiro, who created the event after the huge response he received on Facebook.
Caeiro estimated there were around 5,000 to 6,000 Goans in Abu Dhabi and ten times that number in Dubai.
Tickets for the event sold out within 10 days.
“We’re at the 650 capacity but we had to turn hundreds away,” he said.
The strong demand was an indication of how much Goans value their culture, he said.
The inaugural event, which started at noon, was still going strong at 7pm and included Goan traditional dancing such as the Portuguese Corridinho, a dance adopted during the Portuguese colonial era, which has become a part of Goan tradition, and the Dekhni, a classical Goan dance.
Local and international Goan bands also featured at the event.
The drummer for local Goan band La Vida said music was one of the key ingredients of Goan culture.
“When the music starts you’ll find no Goan can stay seated. Everyone dances and there is a great connection between the audience and the bands,” said Lloyd Dias, 30, who was born in Abu Dhabi, raised in Goa and returned to work in the capital, for Masdar, five years ago.
Sponsoring one of the bands was Prasad Shirodkar, 33, who flew in from Goa for the event.
“I see this as a great business opportunity as there are many Goans in Abu Dhabi who invest heavily back home,” said Shirodkar, adviser for an Indian insurance company.
Shirodkar, who had been to Dubai many times, was visiting the capital for the first time.
“You can see with prime minister [Narendra] Modi’s visit to the UAE as an example of the growing trade between the two countries, so I think its a good time to get into Abu Dhabi,” he said.
Caeiro said he looked forward to hosting the Abu Dhabi event on an annual basis.