ABU DHABI // The holy month of Ramadan ended last night, with Eid al Fitr celebrations beginning today, UAE authorities announced. In line with Islamic tradition, officials from the Shawwal Crescent Committee met last night to look skyward for first sight of the new moon, which marks the end of the fasting month. The committee's findings were announced at a press conference at the Abu Dhabi Judiciary Department headquarters.
"It has been determined that Eid begins on Sunday," said Dr Hadef al Dhaheri, the Minister of Justice, at the live-televised announcement. "After communicating with neighbouring countries, the committee has made certain that this year's Shawwal moon has been sighted. Accordingly Sunday, September 20, 2009, is the first day of Eid al Fitr." During the address, Dr al Dhaheri extended Eid greetings to the President of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and to the members of the Supreme Council and Rulers of the Emirates, Crown Princes of the Emirates, people of the UAE and Islamic nations.
Should officials have failed to catch sight of the new moon, Ramadan would have continued for a further 24 hours and Eid al Fitr would have began on Monday. Astronomical calculations dating to early Islamic times estimate with some accuracy when the new moon will be visible to the naked eye, but predictions as to the precise day are always difficult. The announcement last night means that there will be three days of national holiday beginning tomorrow.
Sheikh Khalifa on Friday exchanged good wishes with heads of state including those in the Gulf, and was today due to offer the traditional Eid al Fitr prayer. He spoke to the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Egypt in a round of telephone calls offering them Eid greetings, according to the UAE's official news agency, WAM. The President is today expected to offer the Eid al Fitr prayer at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in the capital before meeting the Supreme Council members and Rulers of the Emirates at a special reception at Al Mushrif Palace. He is also due to exchange Eid greetings with the emirates' deputy rulers and crown princes.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid was expected to visit the Grand Eid Musalla to perform the Eid prayer before greeting local dignitaries and the public. Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed, the Ruler of Fujairah, was due to offer the Eid prayer at the Fujairah Grand Eid Musalla before meeting regional dignitaries and members of the public. Umm al Qaiwain's Ruler, Sheikh Saud bin Rashid, was due to carry out the Eid prayer at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque ahead of a meeting with local officials and residents of the emirate.
Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed, the Ruler of Sharjah, sent a cable of greetings to Sheikh Khalifa, Sheikh Mohammed, the Rulers of the other emirates and regional leaders. Ajman's Ruler, Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid, will offer his prayers at the Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Musalla. The Ruler will be joined in offering the prayer by the Ajman Crown Prince, Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid, other sheikhs, senior officials and a large number of Muslim worshippers.
WAM provided no details of where the ruler of Ras al Khaimah, Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed, would offer Eid prayers. Eid prayers are expected to start after 6.20 this morning, with many people across the UAE gathering in communal prayer grounds on the first day of Eid al Fitr. Many of those celebrating Eid across the UAE are expected to mark the occasion by visiting friends and family. Others will gather at parks, as well as at special events such as that organised by the Emirates Heritage Club, which is launching a three-day Eid al Fitr Festival at the Abu Dhabi Theatre. The festival will start at 7.30pm with a comedy show performed by the Dubai Al Ahli Theatre Group. "Eid in Dubai" is an event being organised by the office of the Dubai Shopping Festival.