ABU DHABI: “It is my first time in Abu Dhabi. I’m very excited. The people here are so beautiful,” said American actor Demi Moore.

With these words by Moore, who played a villain in the 2003 movie ‘Charlie’s Angels’, the third edition of the Middle East International Film Festival (MEIFF) finally opened.

On Thursday, frenetic preparations took place at the Emirates Palace. Guests were still arriving and had to be accommodated.

The tent for both guests and public had to be set up outdoors. The sound system in the auditorium had to be checked. And, of course, the red carpet, in several pieces, had to be laid, vacuumed and stuck together so that high heels would not get stuck.

Security guards, media and an army of organisers were running up and down the festival floors at the Emirates Palace.

After 5pm, no one without a VIP invitation could pass beyond the lobby. Finally, stars started to bring out the lights on the red carpet about 6.30pm.

Unlike Hollywood, London or Cannes, members of the public were not allowed to watch them shine or sign an autograph, so the atmosphere was oddly quiet. Among the first to walk down the carpet was Rashid Assaf, Syrian actor.

“I believe Middle Eastern movies are very well represented in the festival and I’m planning to see lots of them,” he told media.

For some reason, the majority of stars last night were Syrian. Saloom Hadad, another well-known Syrian actor, was walking with Assaf.