x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Emirati Life: Making the most of Eid Al Fitr

On Sunday, when I was awoken for my first Eid Al Fitr in more than a decade, that dreaded sinking feeling resurfaced yet again, as if I had never had a break.

Eid Al Fitr was always a mixed bag for me during my teenage years in the UAE.

The coming of the holiday was welcome in that it signified at least three days of holiday and an end to daytime eating behind closed doors.

The less appealing prospect was getting up at an ungodly hour to be dragged around from majlis to majlis for a good part of each day.

The morning always arrived sooner than expected as the altered Ramadan schedule had progressively delayed bedtime until after sunrise.

The few teasing hours of sleep the night, or rather morning, before the first day of Eid abruptly gave way to the early-morning duty of visiting dignitaries and family friends.

At the time, the protocol of having to shake the hands of each of the majlis's members upon entering, sitting down next to someone with whom I could not associate or communicate, drinking countless sips of tea and coffee and standing up every time someone walked in to greet us felt like it was keeping me from freedom.

Even the post-Ramadan liberty to eat and drink out in the open could not extinguish the longing for the arduous process to end. But, just as one majlis ended, the entire procedure began again.

Relief for me came only when I moved abroad and could leave the obligation behind.

So, on Sunday, when I was awoken for my first Eid Al Fitr in more than a decade, that dreaded sinking feeling resurfaced yet again, as if I had never had a break.

But, to my delight, this adolescent sentiment quickly melted away as I soaked up the experience - from the first "Eid Mubarak" to the last "Masalama".

Throughout the day, I found the access we have as citizens to our leaders and the time they dedicate to greeting each visitor they receive on this special day incomparable.

I recognised the deep respect that hosts and guests alike gave to each person they greeted, whether they be old or young, poor or rich, citizen or expat.

I saw the unending kindness in the hospitality of the most humble to the most affluent of hosts in their generosity of time, comfort, food and drink.

I was made aware of the ample opportunities all visitors have to develop relationships with people from all walks of life. I also witnessed the strengthening and deepening of connections and friendships through the shared joy of the religious occasion.

Within myself, I sensed a deeper appreciation of the majlis during the blessed day of Eid, and how it not only brought me closer to my countrymen and my culture, but had also reinforced the bond between my family members and myself.

Through the simple greetings offered and received by members of a community on the holiday, strong connections are solidified among the society.

We visited no less than five majlises on the day, giving each and every visit the full attention and time it deserved.

What might have seemed a lifetime during my youth flew by in an instant on this happy day.

And on the journey back home, I surprised myself by saying: "You know, I could probably do this again tomorrow."

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