DUBAI // Diwali comes tomorrow and Eid Al Adha isn't far behind, and a generous exchange rate has expatriates queuing up to send money home.
Yesterday a dirham bought about 13.40 Indian rupees, 20.50 Bangladeshi takas and 29.90 Sri Lankan rupees - rates that are contributing to a 25 per cent increase in remittances to South Asia.
Abdul Gafoor, an administrative officer in Dubai, increased the amount he sent home to India this month from the usual Dh4,000 to Dh5,000.
"I am getting more value for the money I am sending now," he said. "It is also the festival season with Diwali and Eid. If I remit more money, my children and wife can spend well on themselves."
Mr Gafoor, who works at an IT company, said sending more money home could mean less cash for his monthly expenses, but he preferred to take advantage of the exchange rate and reduce his expenditure this month.
Manjith Singh, a labourer, sent home a couple of hundred dirhams more this week than he usually does. "My parents are always happy when I send money home," he said. "The extra money will always help."
Vinod Padinhareveedu, a driver, sent about Dh500 for a family emergency. "I am glad that I was able to send additional money," he said. "I usually don't remit regularly, but if the exchange rates continue to be attractive, I might consider sending again next month."
Diwali, which translates to a row of lights, is celebrated by lighting earthen lamps to signify the journey from darkness to light. The festival marks the return of the ancient King of Ayodhya, Rama, along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman to his kingdom, ending 14 years of exile, after a war in which he killed the demon king, Ravana.
It is believed that even the poorest of families in Ayodhya lit at least one terracotta lamp filled with oil along the way to guide their path through the darkness.
Expatriate Indians buy sweets, shop for gold and wear new clothes. On the day, they gather to pray at Bur Dubai temple, the only temple for Hindus in the UAE.
Eid Al Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, commemorates the Prophet Ibrahim's acceptance of God's command to sacrifice his son Ismail as an act of obedience. Ibrahim was allowed to sacrifice a ram instead.
Muslims celebrate this day with the sacrifice of sheep and goats and give two-thirds of the meat to friends, family and the needy.
"The final quarter of the year is always the best because of the number of festivals," said Sudhir Kumar Shetty, chief operating officer of UAE Exchange. He said the money that was being repatriated had risen, but the number of people sending money remained the same.
"People who are investing in home countries are sending more money, but blue-collared workers do not have surplus to send. They can only send when they receive salaries. They can't afford to postpone remittances," Mr Shetty said.
"The South Asian economy has been on a roller-coaster ride in the past few months," said Adeeb Ahamed, chief executive of Lulu International Exchange.
A strong rupee coupled with rising inflation dampened the mood in the remittance market at the beginning of September, he said, but the rupee has steadily depreciated this month.
"The volume has increased especially to the Indian sector as people are sending more money because they are also getting a better exchange rate."