UAE families are relishing the prospect of the most joyful Eid Al Fitr celebrations in three years as the country continues its cautious recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Large gatherings synonymous with the festival marking the conclusion of Ramadan have given way to smaller events at home for the past two years, with authorities in 2021 calling on the public to share holiday greetings online, avoid exchanging gifts and food with neighbours and avoid socialising with those outside their household.
When Eid Al Fitr was observed in May last year, UAE case numbers were hovering above 1,200 each day.
Almost one year on, and daily infections have dropped significantly, remaining below 300 since April 4, with no deaths recorded since March 7.
Successful efforts to contain the virus have allowed the government to ease Covid-19 safety restrictions in recent weeks, including lifting the requirement to wear masks outdoors, scrapping border checks to enter Abu Dhabi from other emirates and removing restrictions for prayers at mosques for Ramadan.
The encouraging public health situation has given rise to a sense of optimism as people look forward to the holiday period.
Dr Javairia Hassan, a Pakistani mother of two children in Dubai, said she and her family will go to the mosque for Eid prayers for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Mosques in the UAE remained closed for Eid prayers in 2020, while strict guidelines were in place for 2021, such as limited prayer time of only 15 minutes.
“The most important part for us will be to go to the mosque for Eid prayers and start our day from there,” she said.
“Then, we’ll head to a Pakistani restaurant for breakfast and enjoy traditional Eid meals.”
She is also planning to explore Ras Al Khaimah with her husband and children during the Eid break.
For the private sector, the break starts on Saturday, April 30 and lasts until Tuesday, May 3 or Wednesday, May 4, depending on the start date of Eid.
“Now, it feels like we are breathing fresh air because we are free to move, can have get-togethers, enjoy public places and we can make plans without being worried that there’ll suddenly be new restrictions,” said Dr Hassan.
“During the last few Eids, we stayed at home. There weren’t any Eid shopping trips, we didn’t go out to restaurants, parks or malls.
“The spirit of Eid was really missing but thanks to the UAE for making it so safe and now we are able to enjoy the festivities like how it was before the pandemic.”
Amr Eid, an Egyptian father in Dubai, is also planning a staycation with his wife and two children.
He spent Eid Al Fitr at home with his family in 2020 before managing to book a hotel stay with family friends last year.
“We are planning to do a staycation this Eid to spend time with our friends and family,” he said.
“It’s a great way to catch up with everyone, as well as take a break from work, whether it be school for the children or days off from the office for my wife Heba and I.
“It’s honestly so relieving to be able to properly enjoy and make the most of Eid without having to worry about mandatory masks.
“Although restrictions have eased, my family and I continue to take the general precautions to stay as safe as possible. But, nonetheless, we are very excited to be able to treasure these moments with our family in such an enjoyable manner.”