Friends and relatives exchange greetings after offering prayers at Al Noor Mosque in Sharjah. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai/Abu Dhabi/Sharjah: Residents gathered Tuesday at Grand Mussallahs (Eid prayer grounds) and scores of designated mosques in all the seven emirates to perform the special Eid prayers at 6.16am in Dubai and four minutes earlier in Abu Dhabi.

The Eid prayers marked the start of three-day festivities following the month-long fasting during Ramadan, according to the lunar Hijri calender.

Minutes before the prayers, streets leading to mussallahs and mosques were jam-packed. Traffic at the Sharjah's Buhairah Corniche came to a standstill as people spilled out to pray on the main street near Al Taqwa and Al Noor Mosques.

"The Eid prayers are so special to me. I don't miss it because it marks the start of the Eid and crowns the spiritual life of Ramadan," said Waddah Haj Murad, a Syrian expatriate in Sharjah.

The chanting of Eid prayers by worshippers was heard from all mosques across the emirates simultaneously. Men dressed in traditional attire greeted each other as they entered the mosques to perform prayer.

"It is inspiring to witness the dedication of Muslims to prayer," said Anthony, an American engineer in Abu Dhabi.

"Somehow, I sense that people exit the mosque more fulfilled, content, and happier than when they went in," he added

Abu Dhabi glittered with thousands of sparkling blue and white lights illuminating the streets with stars and crescent-shaped lights, and lanterns, representing the spiritual images of the Holy month of Ramadan, adding the flair of tradition to Eid. Parks, a popular gathering spot for families for outdoor barbecues were packed despite the summer heat.

"It is a beautiful sight visually and spiritually when families are clearly enjoying each other's company with laughter, dancing and renewed family spirit," said Jassim, an Emirati accountant.

Children seemed to have a bit of extra freedom during these gatherings, boasting about the Eid allowance they received from family and loved ones, and showing off their new clothes.

As usual, malls in the capital and other emirates played a central role in public entertainment with dancing, food, musicals, shows, and of course the last-minute Eid shopping.

Hundreds gathered at Khalidiya Mall to watch the Arabian Mask dance. Another crowd enjoyed the traditional Egyptian Tanoora dance at Al Wahda Mall.

Cinemas released new movies as people lined up to watch. The beaches too were crowded. Many families ended the day with a trip to Dubai to watch Nancy Ajram live in concert.

Easy border crossing

The Al Ghuwaifat border received 45,000 pilgrims on the eve of Eid and Eid morning while it received 750,000 pilgrims in July. The border authorities had been geared up to process the paper formalities for passengers heading back from their homeland to the UAE after spending their summer holidays.

"Paperwork formalities at Ghuwaifat will not take more than five minutes. In addition, a hotline (02-8082800) has been set up to quickly assist road travellers and answer their questions to resolve any problem they might face," said Major Hammoud Al Affari, head of the police security at Ghuwaifat.

"The Ghuwaifat boarder is well-equipped with all facilities for travellers, including lounges, passports booths, designated areas for vehicles and more.

"Three highly-equipped ambulances in accordance with the latest international standards are permanently available with a professional team to offer medical services. In collaboration with the Red Crescent the Ghuwaifat border had set a tent to offer iftar for 200 Muslims," Al Affari added.