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For illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Agency

Dubai: Despite the absence of large gatherings and no exhange of the traditional Eidya (money) to young ones, coronavirus restrictions have failed to dampen the true spirit of Eid. Here we speak to residents who detail how their holidays will be different but not entirely ruined by the COVID-19 pandemic.

'I never thought ever we would have such a quiet Eid'

Nail Al Shorafa, 51, an Emirati in real estate from Dubai has his immediate family with him this Eid.

“There are a total of seven members in my household that includes my wife, four children and the housemaid,” he said. “Every Eid we usually have a large family lunch at my parents place where my brother, three sister and their families would also gather for a beautiful family time. Sadly, I will not be able visit my mother, who aged 75, and father, aged 80, because I don’t want to put them at risk of exposure. We will all convey our Eid wishes over video call. I will also connect with my siblings after morning prayers to do a virtual hug and exchange of greetings,” he added.

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Nail Al Shorafa (centre) with his sons Ahmed, Mohammad and Faisal Image Credit: Supplied

Al Shorafa still plans to sanitise bank notes, seal them in envelopes and hand it to the kids in his family to be opened at a later date.

The highlight of Eid in the Al Shorafa household is lunch.

“We have planned a late Eid lunch where my wife will lay out a banquet of traditional Emirati cuisine and desserts,” said al Shorafa.

“We will convey our love to each other and be imbued with the festive feeling despite the restrictions, we will make the effort to make this incredible Eid, extraordinary,” he added.

‘We will usher in Eid with traditional cuisine from Muslim communities in North China’

While keeping Eid festivities low key, Dr Yousef Shaojhin Chai and his wife Yu Chin Wang plan to create a modest, yet traditional Chinese Eid lunch for their family of four.

“We will tune into the televised mosque prayers and offer ours from home,” said Dr Chai. “This year instead of giving Eidiya to my daughters Riah, 12 and Zoey, eight, we have decided to collect money from other Chinese Muslim families. We also plan to donate to a charity that will distribute masks and food in workers accommodation on Eid Day.

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Chinese Muslim expats - Dr Yousuf Shaojin Chai with his wife Yu Chin Wang and daughters Riah and Zoey Image Credit: Supplied

“My daughters are drawing special Eid greeting cards for this occasion to go along with the food packets, I have spoken to the Red Crescent, and we are doing this under their guidance,” he added.

Dr Chai hails from North China, the traditional stronghold of Chinese Muslims, while his wife, Wang, hails from South China. They plan to include cuisines from both regions in their Eid lunch.

“We are keeping it very simple. Not too many things, but just a few items. The main course will be traditional dish of steamed lamb sprinkled with traditional Chinese herbs that is eaten not with chopsticks but by hand. This is a dish from Mongolia. This will be accompanied by the fried Chinese Khubz. My wife will also make some dumplings and spicy side dishes that belong to Southern China to which she belongs. For dessert we will have the eight-treasure tea which is made of eight ingredients that include special herbs, jujubes - the red Chinese date, and Longan, a litchi-like fruit, icing sugar and so on. In the evening we will video chat with our friends here and in China and convey our Eid greetings,” he added.

'Had it not been for COVID-19, I would have celebrated Eid in Algeria'

Algerian expatriate Await Hamla and her Egyptian husband Mohammad Masoud had planned to fly to Hamla’s village Diskra in Algeria to celebrate Eid with her family, but with the current pandemic situation they have resigned themselves to the thought of ushering in a subdued Eid at home. “I was planning to celebrate Eid with my two sisters, brothers and parents in Algeria,” said Hamla. “This year Ramadan has been low key too as we never went out as we usually did and stayed up late. We slept early and had no community iftars or suhoors. Similarly, for Eid, my husband and I will observe the celebrations all by ourselves. We bought new clothes – one formal and one pair of silk pajamas each. That way if we go out we will wear the formal clothes or at home wear new silk pajamas, perhaps for the first time in Eid,” she added.

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Awatef Hamla, Algerian expat with her Egyptian husband Mohammad Masood Image Credit: Supplied

Hamla plans to cook traditional Algerian dishes with couscous, meat and vegetables and will also bake a typical Algerian cake.

“The only consolation is that we get to meet our families virtually through phone calls and video chats,” she added. “I just for a change that we will take a short drive to look at some of the landmarks lit up with Eid lights and later watch a movie perhaps,” she said.

'I am happy my parents are here, making this Eid special'

For Fida Sabik, a teacher at a school in Dibba, Fujairah, Eid, despite coronavirus restrictions will be special. The mother of one year old daughter Eva Zenha, had her parents visiting from Ernakulum, Kerala who were unable to leave because of the lockdown. Now she and her husband Sabik Sharafuddeen, will be able to usher in Eid with loved ones.

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Fida Sabik with her husband Sabik Sharafuddeen, baby Eva Zenha and visiting parents Image Credit: Supplied

“We started planning early. My husband who travels to office once a week bought me some pretty lights and other decorations that we will set up at home. A day before, I will soak henna powder and my mother and I know how to make intricate henna patterns on our palms,” said Fida. “After we offer prayers at home we will greet each other and then mother and will get busy preparing a traditional Eid lunch. This year we plan to make the Arabic sweet Kunafa and will make mutton stew, rice and vegetables. If permitted, we plan to go on a short drive to enjoy some beautiful scenery in Fujairah. We will catch up with friends and family over video chats. I am happy to be able to usher in Eid with my family,” she added.

'Eid may be low key, sentiments and prayers will remain as intense as ever'

Mahmud Mohammad Habib Al Redha feels although the pandemic has curtailed social activities during Eid, it has in no way taken away from the spiritual significance of the festival.

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Mahmoud Ali at his home in Dubai Image Credit: Clint Egbert, Gulf News

“Eid is a gift from God for having obeyed him, after observing the 30 day fast with due diligence and full piety,” he said. “My full family will not be able to celebrate the festival together, but I am glad that my wife and I get to usher in Eid with one of my sons, Ali and his family live with us. I will be able to celebrate Eid with Ali, his wife and grandchildren while virtually meeting my other son Mohammad and his family who live in another residence. But that will not make any difference to our Takhbirs and supplications during Eid prayer,” said Al Redha.

The Al Redha family has made arrangements to give out the ‘Zakat ul Fitr’ donation to the needy. “This is determined by the number of people in the household. We choose one essential item such as flour, dates or any typical food item. The price of one kilogram of that item, multiplied by the number of people in the house helps us fix the money in the Zakat ul Fitr. On Eid day, this fund will be used to buy foods and medicine and Eid gifts for the poor and needy. The Eidya to my grandchildren will be transferred virtually through bank accounts,” added Al Redha, who intends to mark low key celebrations with special donations for the community.