Dubai: UAE residents now seem to have got used to celebrating Eid under a ‘new normal’, given the COVID-19 pandemic since last year. However, age-old traditions such as wishing people, exchanging greetings, sharing of blessings and bonding with family and friends never really got outdated. It is just that the forms of such expressions have underwent a change.
So, greetings of “Eid Mubarak”coupled with the customary embrace, handshake, hug or kiss have now been replaced with fist and elbow bumps. Many residents and families have preferred to stay at home for the second year in a row during Eid and avoided large gatherings. However, in spite of that, the celebration of Eid Al Fitr this year has become all the more intimate, personal and warm for UAE residents and families, who have taken care to comply with the COVID-19 protocol while indulging in festivities.
Sri Lankan expatriate and social worker Ishtiaq Raziq, 44, told Gulf News on Friday: “We are celebrating Eid while adhering to the regulations set by the authorities. We had a virtual Eid greeting session for family members yesterday (first day of Eid) and today with relatives and friends. We usually visit each others’ homes, but this time, we have shared the blessings of Eid virtually, though with a strong spiritual bonding.”
Sharing of Sri Lankan sweets
If there’s one thing that Ishtiaq did not forego this year, it was the distribution and sharing of Sri Lankan sweets. He said: “Before Eid, we distributed Wattalapan, the traditional Sri Lankan sweet, to our friends. It is one of the most popular desserts of Sri Lanka, made from coconut milk or condensed milk, jaggery, cashew nuts, eggs and various spices. It’s a staple during Eid festivities.”
He added: “This time, Eid weekend is being spent at home. We have resumed our evening walks from today to keep fit and be healthy. My eldest daughter is also preparing for her school exams next week and the family works as a team supporting her. My weekend was also spent on my studies and preparations for the next community projects later this month at Sri Lankan Welfare Association,” Ishtiaq added.
Family and business
For Muhammad Yasir, Pakistani businessman and owner of Pinoy Used Cars in Dubai, celebrating Eid was made more meaningful with family and employees around. He said: “I treat my staff as family. So I make it a point to celebrate special occasions such as Eid with them. We had a good time together, bonding over food and sharing Eid blessings.”
He added: “I have a lot to be thankful for — my family is safe and healthy and business is thriving despite the pandemic. This may have been the second year in a row that we are celebrating Eid Al Fitr with COVID-19 still lingering, but we are always optimistic that this pandemic will soon be over and we will enjoy large gatherings in the comforts of our homes and at the many recreational spaces across the UAE,” Muhammad added.
Celebrating Eid for Filipino expatriate Geoffrey Salatan, a retail sales manager at a travel agency in Dubai, also means complying with social distancing protocol and avoiding large gatherings. “My wife and I are planning to make the most of the weekend by enjoying a nice dinner at a restaurant and enjoying outdoor activities before it gets too hot.”
Busy Eid weekend
Omar and Nina also had a nice Eid celebration and their weekend has been packed with activities and visits to relatives and close friends.
Omar, a Jordanian expatriate born and raised in Dubai, said: “On the first day of Eid, my wife and I went to the mosque close to our home to pray. The most beautiful feeling was hearing in the morning ‘Takbeerat Al Eid’, as we joined the worshippers in one voice — praying. Then we met my mother, brother and sisters, to greet them on the occasion and share the blessings. Today (the second day of Eid) we are having outdoor activities as the weather is still quite comfortable for swimming. And tomorrow, we are planning a barbecue at my mother’s home,” said Omar, adding: “On Sunday, I will be back at work, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.”