ABU DHABI // As the new moon was sighted last night, Muslims made final preparations for a month of prayer, fasting and reflection.
Thousands of lights and decorative crescent moons, stars and lanterns began to glow along bridges, public gardens, the Corniche and the capital's busy roads as residents made last-minute stops at shopping centres and grocery stores to stock up for the first iftar of Ramadan tonight.
Hotels prepared for a month of elaborate buffets of hot and cold mezze and live cooking stations, and put the final touches on lavish Ramadan tents.
The Emirates Palace hotel unveiled its Ramadan Pavilion on the terrace, which will host up to 1,400 guests daily for especially lavish iftars and suhoors.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which welcomed throngs of worshippers before the first hours of the holy month, prepared to feed thousands of visitors - including non-Muslims - in what is regarded as the country's largest iftar.
Bakers and confectioners warmed their ovens for the first batches of specially-made treats, including qatayef - deep-fried pastries dredged with sugar and filled with cream, nuts and cheese, which can usually be found only during Ramadan.
Abu Dhabi Police, meanwhile, geared up to distribute free iftar meals at the city's main road junctions, as well as in Al Ain and at the entrance to Al Gharbia.
In Dubai, worshippers flocked to the new Al Farooq Omar Ibn Al Khattab Mosque, the emirate's largest, which was inaugurated this week in time for the holy month.