DUBAI, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- At the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, this Sunday marks the first day of Eid celebrations, featured by prayers, family gatherings and special rebates.
Relief and happiness are felt across Dubai these days as the city gears up for a long weekend. "It is certainly difficult to abstain from eating and drinking during the hot and long days of July and August, when temperatures rise to 45 degrees Celsius," said Yahya, a 24-year-old retail salesman from Syria.
"However, as Muslims, it is our duty to fast during Ramadan, so I am happy I could do service to God."
After four weeks of fasting from dawn till dusk, 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide are preparing for their Eid holidays. Eid ul-fitr, which literally means festivities of "breaking the fast," marks the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan. Pregnant women, toddlers and very old people are exempted from fasting, according to Islamic law (Sharia).
Because the Islamic lunar calendar is 10 to 12 days shorter than the globally accepted Gregorian calendar, the Ramadan moves every year by 10 days forward within a calendar year.
Like every year, United Arab Emirates (UAE) President H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed AL Nahyan and UAE Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum send greetings to Muslims worldwide. Streets throughout the Gulf state are decorated with lights during the night, and tourists entering hotel lobbies are greeted with dates and hot Turkish coffee.
Eid celebrations are taking place in private and in public. Ali, a 31-year-old Emirati civil engineer who lives in the emirate of Ras al-Khaima, just an hour's drive from Dubai, said that to him every Eid marks the gathering of his entire family.
"I have seven uncles, three aunts, and they all have many children. They live in different parts of the UAE. We live in a big house in Ras al-Khaima, so it will be a very joyful day."
Asked how a typical Eid looks like in an Emirati family, Ali replied, "On Sunday, the first day of Eid, we will get up early to pray at the Mosque before dawn. Then we go back home and enjoy being together. We exchange presents, usually we buy new clothes for each other."
Others may have to do their professional duty, because their employers can't afford to shut down for a couple of days.
"I am a nurse," said Zeina, a 41-year-old lady from Yemen. "Working in the health sector is noble, because you take care of people's health. We have to work even during official Eid holidays, but I am confident that God will compensate me for my duty," she said.
Yahya is also happy to celebrate Eid with his friends, although he has to work during the holiday. "As a retail salesman in a telecom shop located in the Dubai Mall, the world's largest shopping mall, I have to be present, especially during holidays, when people rush for shopping."
In the Gulf Arab's business metropolis Dubai, well-known for its mild winters and its hot and humid summer months, life stood almost still since July 19, when this year's Ramadan started. No conferences or cultural events took place since then, business travellers with black tie and suitcase almost disappeared from the streets - a rarity for the ever-buzzing Dubai.
While Muslims were fasting during the day, other people would spend their summer holidays. Around 80 percent of the UAE's 7.8 million people are foreigners, while Muslims make up half of the population.
Giving donation or Zakat, as it is called in Arabic, is also a duty at the end of Ramadan, for low-income people at home or for those in need abroad. Zakat can be given in the form of money, food or clothes.
Earlier on Thursday, the UAE government said that 433 Somali families will receive food aid from Khalifa Foundation, a state-owned aid institution named after UAE President.
Eid celebrations are also featured by hundreds of special offers in the retail and hospitality industry. Hotels offer rooms, lunch and dinner packages at reduced prices.
Car dealers offer discounts until Tuesday, when the official Eid holidays go on. Stock markets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi will be closed during Eid and will resume trading on Wednesday. From then, business life will come back to the sheikhdom. After a long mid-summer Ramadan, Dubai gears up for the high season.