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A family enjoy the Eid holiday with a picnic at the Al Markaziyah garden in Al Hosn, Abu Dhabi.
Stephen Lock
A family enjoy the Eid holiday with a picnic at the Al Markaziyah garden in Al Hosn, Abu Dhabi.

Spirit of Eid celebrated by families and friends

Throngs of people embrace the sunshine to celebrate the Eid al Fitr holiday in beaches, parks, carnivals and shopping malls.

Throngs of people embraced the sunshine yesterday to celebrate the Eid al Fitr holiday. Many flocked to beaches and parks, or attended traditional carnivals, while others flooded shopping malls. Others spent the day visiting family and friends, in the Eid tradition. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE, received members of the Supreme Council and rulers from different emirates at Mushrif Palace in Abu Dhabi, the state news agency, WAM, reported last night. Other dignitaries also received well-wishers throughout the day.

At some shopping centres in Dubai, meanwhile, ATM machines stopped working, apparently having run out of money, customers and shopkeepers said. Some motorists waited for up to an hour outside the Mall of the Emirates to park their cars, while the shops inside heaved with customers. Many people resorted to parking many kilometres away and walking to the mall. "It's much busier than normal. Everyone is on holiday and wants to hang out," said Amy De la Posa, working at a souvenir stall.

"It's just that at the Eid holiday everyone's crazy for shopping," said Sarah Mast, from South Africa. A constant stream of people were entering the mall last night with some queues 20 people deep at the doors. Most of the food and coffee outlets were full and groups of people stood around talking to one another. It was much the same story at Abu Dhabi's Al Wahda Mall. "It's not good right now, especially with the lines," said Suerte Garcia, who decided to abandon her grocery shopping trip because of the crowds.

She has lived in Abu Dhabi for 10 years and says she has never seen the shops so busy. The taxi queue from the mall was hundreds of people deep. Mohammed Habib was shopping with his family. "It's a headache for me," he said. "I like the quiet. Normally I shop in the middle of the week, but you have to bring the children out and in Abu Dhabi there's not many things they can do. So at Eid we have to come here and get some ice cream. We do it for them."

As the daytime heat cooled in Abu Dhabi, throngs of holidaying residents dotted the new Corniche beach. Crowds were smaller than the previous day, with many people saying they would return to work on Thursday. Nyuol Dit, 37, a salesman at a bed shop and originally from Sudan, said: "This is the time of year I look forward to. To me it is family that is important, and thinking about people who are important and giving thanks for everything that God provides. I am thinking of family, but not with them because they are still in Sudan.

"Here my friends are family. We give things to each other," Mr Dit said after praying with his friends in Al Karamah and calling relatives scattered around the world. On the streets of the capital, public transport began returning to normal yesterday, with more vehicles on the capital's streets. Noorullah Khan, a taxi driver from Pakistan, continued working through the holiday. "It keeps me busy," he said. "I fast, I follow Ramadan, and I celebrate for me. I have two daughters and I think of them, they think of me. I sent money for two dresses, and my daughters always wear the same shoes that my grandmother made. I see them wearing their shoes, but I am not with them."

The Emirates Heritage Club's annual Eid carnival drew crowds hoping to get a flavour of traditional Arab life. In past years, performers in Bedouin-style dress paraded with a desert camel caravan and hauled textiles and traditional jewellery. Abu Dhabi Police also took part in the celebrations, with traffic patrollers offering sweets to motorists along with reminders to take care on the roads. Maj Ahmed Salem al Niyadi, the head of the force's information section, told WAM that the traffic department's activities showed that "police are an inseparable part of the community".

Beaches and parks were also packed in Dubai as families and groups of friends sought out the sunshine. Ali Suleman al Zaabi, from Khor Kalba in Fujairah, had come to the city for a day trip with his brother, their wives, his mother and a total of 12 children among them. "We have had a very nice day - a walk along the beach, a picnic in the shade of a tree, and later on we will go to the Mall of the Emirates for a look round," he said.

"We do not come to Dubai very often, so this is a small holiday for us - we will be driving home tonight after enjoying the Eid break." For some of those trying to get out of the city for a last-minute break, however, the Eid holiday had proved to be anything but relaxing. "We have been waiting in line at the border for hours and it is total chaos here," said Steven Galbraith, speaking from the crossing into Oman's Musandam peninsula.

"There are four lines, each with about 30 people in, but a lot of them are bringing up piles of 10 passports at a time while their family wait in the car. People keep pushing into the queue and tempers are really short - I've done this trip quite a few times and this is the worst I've ever seen it. I'm tempted to just get in the car and drive home." Meanwhile, in Dubai's Safa Park, hundreds of people sat on the grass for picnics and played football and cricket.

"We're having a great day, lots of fun in the sun," said Nirmal Ratesar, who was with a group of around 40 colleagues from Emirates Airline. "We've been here since the morning and we'll stay until the evening - and then tomorrow it's back to work." Ahmad Dorra, a communications engineer from Lebanon, was busy getting a barbecue started with around 20 of his friends and had no time to fret about heading back to work the next day.

"Eid mubarak!" he called. "This is a time for celebrating. A lot of people in Dubai do not have their families here, but we can get together with friends, relax and enjoy Eid." gmcclenaghan@thenational.ae rhughes@thenational.ae mkwong@thenational.ae

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