x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

More Emiratis opt for Eid abroad rather than staycation in the UAE

Tradition of spending the holiday at home with the family is being challenged by the numbers taking a break from the fierce summer heat.

A family has their picture taken near the fountains at Dubai Mall during the Eid holiday last week - but a growing number of Emiratis are heading abroad as the holiday currently falls in high summer. Sarah Dea / The National
A family has their picture taken near the fountains at Dubai Mall during the Eid holiday last week - but a growing number of Emiratis are heading abroad as the holiday currently falls in high summer. Sarah Dea / The National
Traditionally, Eid is family time in the UAE, a time to come together with relatives in celebration and joy - but an increasing number of Emiratis are using the occasion to travel.

The number of passengers leaving Abu Dhabi, including Emiratis, has significantly increased during the Eid period and the week leading up to it, according to Abu Dhabi Airports Company.

"I prefer to take the opportunity to experience other places," said Maad Hassan, 28, who flew to North Africa.

"We have limited vacation days and Eid is a good time to make the most of them."

In fact, with just four days off for the public sector, Government employees get the shortest Eid Al Fitr holiday in the GCC, as opposed to Saudi Arabia and Qatar's public sector, which top the list with an extended 12 days off.

Mr Hassan said although Eid was enjoyable up until the age of 15, it became boring after that.

"During the break, activities are very limited as many places shut down," he said.

This Eid was especially challenging, he said, because it was the middle of summer.

"Temperatures and humidity are high this time of year and you can't spend a lot of time outdoors. Heading to milder climates gives you a chance to do much more."

Family acceptance of travel during religious holidays often depends on which Eid people decide to take.

Eid Al Adha will prove more difficult, Mr Hassan said, because relatives expect family to keep close. There is more flexibility with Eid Al Fitr.

"At the end of Ramadan you've spent a whole month with your family and they got bored of you," he said, jokingly.

Asma Hilal Lootah, who knew many Emiratis who had travelled abroad during Eid, said she decided to stay home with her family.

"You can't feel the spirit of Eid while travelling abroad."

Being away from family and the traditions of Eid, such as new clothes, going to morning prayers and having breakfast together, is not an option, she said.

"These are valuable memories we are creating with family. Children will never forget the moments of Eid."

"You can't find the taste of Eid anywhere else," said Qais Al Tamimi, another Emirati who opted to spend the holidays at home.

"Connection is the essence of Eid and our culture. It is a special event which is religiously, culturally and socially significant in our society."

An assistant professor communications at UAE University, Dr Al Tamimi said he has seen a significant shift when comparing Eids past and present.

"People are much busier these days, sometimes brothers don't see each other for months."

Eid is a valuable opportunity to bring the family together, said Dr Tamimi, whose work focuses on the social and cultural aspects of UAE society.

He said he had planned to travel to India for medical reasons, but decided to stay home.

"I spent 15 years in the States where I wished I could have spent Eid with the family, so I am making sure to make the most of the ones I can."

He said having a few holiday days did not justify missing local celebrations. "We are all busy and work never ends, but Eid offers us an opportunity to strengthen our family's and society's bonds."

Awqaf, the General Authority of Islamic Affairs, highlighted Eid's religious significance and endowment, where a mufti said it was the best opportunity to spend time with the family.

Although not obligatory, spending time with relatives during Eid went a long way in keeping good relations with family which is imperative in Islam, he said.

"The thought of a father leaving his wife and children during such an important time is unthinkable."

The UAE is also on the receiving end of GCC travel during Eid, with an increasing number of Saudis booking Dubai hotels.

Ms Lootah said the religious aspect of Eid should not be discarded.

"We're already losing the essence of being Emirati. We shouldn't let this important one get away as well."