ABU DHABI // Henna Hemnani woke at 4am yesterday to decorate the small temple she made in her flat and prepare sweets for Diwali.
"Celebrating Diwali in the Emirates gives a feeling of solidarity and togetherness," said Ms Hemnani who has been in the UAE for 19 years and runs a textiles shop in Madinat Zayed.
"When I receive greetings from different groups of people from various nationalities, I feel proud and enthusiastic that we are living in such a welcoming and diversified community."
In the evenings, her children will light firecrackers and the family will greet friends outside their building.
Indian expatriates throughout the country gathered to celebrate the five-day Festival of Lights.
Diwali marks the start of the new year on the Hindu calendar and celebrates the return of the ancient King of Ayodhya, Rama, after 14 years of exile, and the defeat of the demon king, Ravana.
People light candles and decorate buildings with lights to symbolise the triumph of light over darkness, and exchange gifts, especially gold and diamond jewellery.
Rangoli, decorative designs on the floor made from coloured rice powder, are popular in Diwali and many people create them in their homes and courtyards to welcome the Hindu deities.
Sweet shops in the capital are doing a brisk business, with shopping hours extended.
Vinay Kumar, owner of the sweets shop Chhappan Bhog, said his people were hard at work.
"Now they are working for 18 to 19 hours a day to meet the huge demand of people during Diwali," he said. "Today my shop is full of people and we don't have time to talk."
Others also celebrated at work.
"I am on duty at my shop and stay here," said Prem Shankar, who has lived in the UAE for 30 years and works at Lalu Laundry on Electra Street. "Just bring some sweets and share among colleagues. I'll pray at the shop itself."