ABU DHABI / DUBAI // Thousands of people flocked to malls over the weekend as shops reported a surge in trade thanks to rain and the approach of Eid al Adha. Hamoud al Marzouqi, a 54-year-old Emirati businessman, said he took the opportunity to buy gifts for his family before Arafat Day and Eid. "We will be fasting... Muslims sacrifice their animals such as sheep, which are given to the poor," he said. At Al Wahda Mall in Abu Dhabi, traffic was expected to swell from 25,000 to 50,000 people per day. "We will see a further increase in spending on perfumes, fashion, home decor and groceries during Eid," said Mohammed Nauman Thakur, the shopping centre's manager. The unsettled weather, the traditional shopping rush before Eid and the pre-Christmas shopping boom are all expected to contribute to a fruitful few weeks ahead for businesses. At Lulu Hypermarkets, customer numbers were expected to increase by more than 40 per cent and sales by up to 30 per cent. "As in any festive occasion, we are witnessing a huge demand in food, gift items and garments," said V Nandakumar, corporate communication manager at Emke Group, which runs the supermarkets. The Mall of the Emirates in Dubai was also anticipating bumper sales. "Most people are off work for a week, and the bad weather means they can't sunbathe or spend time outside," said Francis Monto who works at the Diesel clothing store. "It is inevitable that they will visit a mall. No one will want to stay in their homes the whole time." Smaller, exclusive outlets are also anticipating a profitable period. Vaib Srivastav, a sales assistant at the Porsche Design boutique, said: "With all the rain around, people will be drawn to the mall. Parents may bring their children to enjoy the amusement arcades or the special activities provided for Eid. It is natural that they will look in the shops as well." The Mall of the Emirates' opening hours have been extended to midnight until Saturday to cope with the expected increase in demand. The shopping centre is also celebrating regional traditions, offering performances of music from Al Layali Al Arabia, dancing by Egyptian troupe the Whirling Dervishes, Sufi folklore activities and falconry displays. Deira City Centre will also host traditional dancing over Eid. Fuad Al Najjar, the vice president at Deira City Centre, said: "Eid is a special time for families and friends to come together." Hadi Zeidan, in charge of customer services at Abu Dhabi Mall, expected a surge in retail sales during Eid al Adha. "We normally receive 40,000 visitors every day, and we are forecasting between 90,000 to 100,000 visitors a day during Eid this year." It was mostly Emirati customers over at Mothercare in Al Wahda Mall, picking up baby clothes and socks, for the last two weeks. The shop was expecting its sales to increase by more than 50 per cent. "We've been really busy," said Buddhika Samaraweera, a sales adviser. Herry Sadewo, 34, an operator of a petrochemical company, was shopping in Al Wahda Mall for clothes, shoes, perfumes and sunglasses for his four children with his wife and two sons aged two and eight. "We travelled all the way from Ruwais for some last-minute shopping," he said. "I'm buying clothes for the kids and gold jewellery for my wife." Among his purchases were clothes, shoes, perfumes and sunglasses for his four children. Mohammed Abdullah al Marzouqi, 37, an Emirati engineer, was out with his wife shopping for clothes for their six children, who range in age from three to 14. "We've been preparing for Eid for a long time and have set aside a budget for this occasion... the day before Eid Al Adha, we will be fasting and praying," said Mr al Marzouqi. "On the first day of Eid, we will be at the mosque and visit relatives and friends. We may go to Ras al Khaimah on the second day." The heavy rain forced the cancellation of the final day of the Grand Racing competition at Dubai Autodrome yesterday. Sections of the circuit were flooded and residue of grit was left on the track, while large areas of standing water made access to the autodrome virtually impossible. Fans issued with tickets will be able to use them next year or apply for a refund. firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
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