ABU DHABI // Thousands of parishioners gathered for a standing room-only morning Easter Mass at St Joseph's Cathedral yesterday.
Just one in the sea of worshippers was Martin Unukpo, who admired the diverse crowd gathered for the 9am service.
"It's nice to see such a community for Catholics here," said the 32-year-old Nigerian. "There are people from all over the world here."
Nineteen Masses held in 13 different languages attracted Catholics from across the emirate.
Women dressed in colourful saris and sparkling gold jewellery prayed alongside young Filipino workers in jeans and T-shirts.
Dozens of buses blocked several lanes of traffic outside as drivers waited for throngs of workers to return to their accommodations.
Mr Unukpo planned to spend his first Easter in the capital relaxing, but others at the Masses outlined plans for lavish celebrations and dedicated family time.
For George Kallannoor and his family, Easter was a chance to bring together relatives and friends and reminisce about life in India.
"We come together with 10 other families to eat, chat and relive memories," said Mr Kallannoor, 53, from Kerala.
His son, Mervin George, said the celebration was more poignant because he was celebrating away from home.
"Because we are not in India, we have to make this special time to be together," said Mr George, 23. "It means more because we are in a foreign place, and we bring our home to us."
At the morning family service at St Andrew's Anglican Church, hymns and readings were punctuated with shouts and giggles from the dozens of children in attendance.
Families roared when Reverend Canon Andrew Thompson juggled eggs during his sermon and bobbed and swayed as he led the hundreds-strong congregation in song.
Emphasising Easter themes of new life and rebirth, children placed flowers on a model of the tomb of Jesus.
Canon Thompson urged those in the pews to maintain their faith, even in the face of hardship.
"Whenever something sad happens, whenever things get tough, we do have hope in the face of impossible odds," he said.
Hope Sherwin, from Britain, attended the morning service with her two children, Faith, 4, and Hugh, 1.
Although the family has lived in the UAE for four years, this was their first Easter here.
"I miss daffodils and Easter flowers but the service has been really nice and we've had a chance to do family activities," said Mrs Sherwin, 37.
In the afternoon, an Easter egg hunt completed the festivities.
"It really doesn't feel like we're so far away from home," said Mrs Sherwin.