DUBAI // Srikath Lingampally woke well before dawn yesterday and arrived at the old souq in Bastakiya at about 4am.
Despite such an early start - on his day off, no less - he waited for four hours in long queues, amid the thousands who had flocked to the Hindu temple complex in Bur Dubai for Diwali, the festival of lights.
Mr Lingampally, 32, from the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, finally reached the inside of the temple at 8am and by noon, was navigating the maze of streets around the temple.
"I'm a bachelor here; my child and wife are back home," he said after the tilak, or red powder, had been dabbed on his forehead as a mark of piety. "I spoke to my son today and he told me 'Happy Diwali' and said I should be there."
Although he could not be with his family yesterday, after praying in the temple Mr Lingampally started to prepare for the evening's celebrations he had planned with friends in in Al Quoz.
"We will eat some sweets and cook," he said. "And of course we will say our prayers."
Security guards maintained order and closed some of the routes around the complex to control crowds in the narrow alleyways.
Close to the temple entrance, business was brisk at shops selling religious items and trinkets. Dozens of people crammed into the Clean Star shop to purchase garlands, lights, small statues of Hindu gods such as Ganesh and Lakshmi, and other items.
Ram Naresh, 32 from Hyderabad, has worked in the shop alongside his two brothers for two and a half years. Diwali is always their busiest time.
"We sell lots of things, but among the fastest moving are the garlands," he said, referring to the flowers and decorations that are often placed around icons during the Lakshmi puja, a religious ritual and prayer performed on the third day of Diwali.
Yesterday, Mr Naresh and his brothers opened their shop at 5am, and by noon, they said, more than 1,000 people had passed by.
"They come from everywhere, Sharjah, Dubai, Ras al Khaimah," he said.
Throughout the day people continued to flock to the area around the temple, with worshippers lining up in front of entry points such as one close to the Bur Dubai abra station, alongside the creek.
Not far away, in Karama, families stopped by the Puranmal sweet shop to collect sweets to take home for the day's celebrations. People waiting for orders stood patiently beside boxes of sweets almost reaching the ceiling, which was decorated with pink, gold, green and red tinsel.
Tanay Srivastava, 40, from Delhi, was at the shop to collect sweets for the dozen guests he was expecting at his home, which he planned to fill with lamps and lights in honour of the festival.
"This is a time for us to get together with our friends and family," said Mr Srivastava, who has lived in the Emirates for a decade and works in construction. "Diwali is my favourite of the celebrations."