Cities around the world went dark for one hour on Saturday as individuals shut off their lights, plunging whole neighborhoods and iconic skylines into darkness to mark Earth Hour, an initiative several Arab cities joined as part of the world's symbolic stand against global warming.
Citizens in more than 84 countries switched off their lights at 8:30 p.m. local time, including several Arab countries, whose governments, criticized for not contributing constructively to environmentalist issues, made a symbolic gesture to recognize the threat of climate change by turning off essential lights.
Dubai, the first Arab city to join the Earth Hour initiative in 2008, marked Earth Hour as the vibrant city plunged into darkness. Residents switched off all non-essential lights, saving up to 100,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Fujairah emirates also participated.
With the largest carbon footprint in the world, the UAE consumes the most natural resources per capita, according to a 2004 report by the conservation group World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Lebanese concerned by climate change also joined the global community to mark Earth Hour, even though many face electricity cuts every day.
The Pyramids and the Sphinx in Egypt, normally lit up with high-powered floodlights, went dark for an hour as well in a symbolic statement Egyptian environmentalists hope will raise awareness to save the Nile Delta from inundation.
"Please turn off your lights at 8:30 pm on Saturday," Maged George, Egypt's minister of state for environmental affairs, urged readers of Egypt's government newspapers this week.
The Alexandria Library, on Egypt's northern coast, joined Broadway theaters in New York City, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Sydney Opera House in turning off their lights in support of Earth Hour.
Egypt faces catastrophic consequences from global warming according to the World Bank which warned in a report in 2007 that if the Mediterranean rises by one meter, as scientists predict it will by the end of the century, it will flood the coastal areas along the Nile Delta.
The effects of global warming on other Middle East towns and cities could be equally catastrophic as research predicted that temperatures will rise between 1.8 and four degrees Celsius, which would melt ice caps and submerge coastal areas, forcing those living in such regions to flee inland, according to the British University of Dubai.
Earth Hour was started in Australia by WWF in 2007. In just three years, it has become an international event held on the last Saturday of March, with more than 4,000 cities from Antartica's Base Station to the city-center of Jakata and major corporations like McDonald's planning to participate.
WWF announced Earth Year 2009 as the first "global election" pitting global warming against a sustainable Earth.
"For the first time in history, people of all ages, nationalities, race and background have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote - Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming," Earth Hour's website said.
Other iconic structures around the world due to blackout for Earth Hour include San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, the Las Vegas Strip, Niagara Falls and and the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing.