Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 September 2020

CORONAVIRUS

First day of Eid lifts mood of UAE residents and brings welcome 'sense of normality'

Friends and families venture out on first day of Eid Al Fitr holiday in search of respite from life under cloud of pandemic

From a desert border town to the shores of the Indian Ocean, people across the UAE marked an Eid Al Fitr unlike any other.

Mosques and prayer grounds were empty on Sunday as worshippers performed Eid prayers in unison from their homes.

Residents were urged to cocoon for Eid Al Fitr to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

But for some, the holiday offered a break from two long months at home.

At Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, a firm favourite among families, shoppers trickled through the doors on the first day of Eid Al Fitr.

Although the popular shopping destination was not as busy as previous years, the mood was high as everyone enjoyed a socially distanced outing.

Shoppers in colourful outfits donned mandatory face masks and gloves and greeted passers-by with wide smiles.

Security guards patrolling the mall wished visitors and colleagues Eid Mubarak.

On Sunday, twins Aditya and Atulya Pradhan, 30, made their first trip to the mall in three months.

Aditya wanted to buy a new phone for Eid.

“Because of all the lockdown measures these past months, I saved some money so I’m going to treat myself to a phone today,” the Indian chef told The National.

“It’s definitely different and difficult shopping in a face mask, but it’s what we have to do to be safe.”

While people queued outside some shops before being permitted entry by security staff, friends and family joked together, patiently waiting their turn.

Jeramy Parado joined shoppers at Dubai's Mall of the Emirates to mark the start of Eid Al Fitr. Antonie Robertson/The National
Jeramy Parado joined shoppers at Dubai's Mall of the Emirates to mark the start of Eid Al Fitr. Antonie Robertson/The National

Some clutched bags from confectionery shops brimming with Eid sweet treats including dates, baklawah assiyeh and nougat.

Others pushed shopping carts full of groceries and purchases from clothes to bedding and electronics.

For Kristine Ann Rabago, from the Philippines, an outing to the mall was a surreal experience after so long at home.

It’s Eid time and we had to do something today. So, we dressed up in our Eid clothes and came to the mall just to have a look and maybe go to a restaurant

Tayyaba Gull

“I’m not actually out to buy anything really, I just wanted to spend some time on my day off with some friends and get out of the house,” said Ms Robago, 28.

“All my time has been spent at work or indoors so it’s nice to see people out celebrating Eid. It’s like a sense of normality again.”

The crowd picked up after 2pm at Ibn Battuta Mall.

The mall is usually packed at Eid Al Fitr as children’s shows, new Bollywood releases and irresistible sales draw crowds.

This year, the cinema and most shops remained empty and, families stayed at the mall for short periods to take photographs of themselves in new Eid outfits and grab a quick bite.

Muhammad Usman wore his traditional shalwar kameez to celebrate his Pakistani heritage.

“We are definitely scared of getting infected but we were also getting bored of staying indoors,” said Mr Usman, 26, an office administrator who had come with his brother.

“We wanted to go out for a bit to celebrate Eid. It didn’t feel right staying at home.

"We go out each year to watch a new movie and dine together as a family at a restaurant.”

Tayyaba Gull, 28, wore a sparkling shalwar kameez and wandered through the mall with her brother-in-law, Saqib Khan.

The film director arrived in Dubai from Pakistan three months ago in search for a job.

Shoppers Kristine Ann Rabago (Phil), Aditya Pradhan and Atulya Pradhan peruse the aisles at Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. Antonie Robertson/The National
Shoppers Kristine Ann Rabago (Phil), Aditya Pradhan and Atulya Pradhan peruse the aisles at Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. Antonie Robertson/The National

“I can’t go back to Pakistan so I’m trying to make the best of my time here,” she said.

“It’s Eid time and we had to do something today. So we dressed up in our Eid clothes and came to the mall just to have a look and maybe go to a restaurant.”

In Ajman, Umaima Taha and her husband Syed Taha hosted two relatives for a small Eid lunch at their flat.

During Ramadan, the couple dedicated themselves to helping neighbours in need and they will forgo Eid celebrations to continue this work.

“Our religion taught us to help others in crucial times and this is the time of pandemic, so instead of thinking about my problems I should think about others, especially those who are in need,” said Mrs Taha, who is from Pakistan.

“We are not celebrating this Eid as in past years.”

Abu Dhabi residents take a stroll along the Corniche to watch the sunset on the first day of Eid Al Fitr. Victor Besa / The National 
Abu Dhabi residents take a stroll along the Corniche to watch the sunset on the first day of Eid Al Fitr. Victor Besa / The National

Instead of preparing henna, new clothes or grand feasts for Eid, the couple spent the final days of Ramadan delivering groceries to families suffering from the economic fallout of the pandemic.

For them, service is the best way to spend Eid.

“My faith in Allah is very strong after this Ramadan,” Mr Taha said.

“I had never done that type of work before. Tomorrow we will start again. I cannot stay home and take a rest.”

Updated: May 25, 2020 02:59 AM

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