Diwali 2020: Enthusiasm undimmed as Indians in UAE gear up to celebrate festival of lights

Lavish parties will give way to more family time across the Emirates this weekend

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Diwali celebrations will be scaled back this weekend as residents in the UAE limit gatherings in line with Covid-19 safety measures.

Many in the Emirates will go back to basics, focusing their energies on spending time with loved ones and catching up with relatives overseas on Zoom, when the Indian festival of lights gets under way on Saturday.

While some are meeting friends in small groups to mark the occasion, others will teach their children about the importance of the festival.

Ashu Madan, an Indian resident in Dubai, will be painting diyas, oil lamps, with her five-year-old daughter and will be teaching her about the festival through stories.

Dubai residents celebrate Diwali

Dubai residents celebrate Diwali

"This year is unusual, but we are trying to keep our spirits up. Usually, we go meet friends, exchange gifts and have parties, but we can't do that.

"We are not going out. We are buying gifts and sweets for ourselves instead of for others.

"Looking at what others are going through, we feel grateful."

This year it's all about family and explaining to children what Diwali is really about

She said she was grateful to be in the UAE, where Covid-19 cases were much lower than in India.

"It’s a quiet celebration compared to past years, but we are still excited and feel festive," she said.

"This year it's all about family and explaining to children what Diwali is really about."

Bharat Chachara, general manager of the India Club in Dubai’s Oud Metha area, said festivities moved online this year to adhere to social distancing norms.

“Diwali is one of our biggest events and we usually have 2,000 people at concerts to listen to a Bollywood actor or pop singer but this year’s performance will be online by a popular local band,” he said.

“Since we can’t have events, we are concentrating on culinary experiences to celebrate Diwali.”

Restaurants in the club are serving up samples of prasad or offerings usually handed to worshippers in temples in different parts of India.

Takeout orders have picked up and limited bookings are accepted in the club’s eateries that run at 50 per cent capacity.

Diwali parties in past years would have hundreds of people coming together to celebrate.

Residents who are keen on meeting friends are celebrating in small groups.

Anita Bhatia, 51, an Indian executive in Dubai, reminisced about the open houses she would hold in past years.

This year, she will celebrate with her 29-year-old daughter Sonia, and 26-year-old son Yash, as well as a few friends.

"Earlier we used to have huge gatherings of around 400 people and parties would be held every day for two weeks.

"Diwali this year will be different in terms of meeting people. We will miss meeting family."

Ms Bhatia will make Kaju Katlis, a cashew-based dessert, at home.

She will dress up in Indian finery and decorate her house with lights and diyas.

Sweets such as Laddoo and fried savouries like Chevda, Chakli and Namakpara are usually made at home on Diwali.

This time, though celebrations and subdued, residents are working to inject enthusiasm into quiet festivities.

Jyoti Watchmaker, 42, an Indian resident in Dubai, said she was getting her house ready and ordering decorative items like diyas from India.

"This time it's very Dubai Diwali. We have been buying gifts at Dragon Mart," said Ms Watchmaker.

"I will miss being a part of bigger gatherings and celebrations."

Mask makers are using the opportunity to create crystal-studded Diwali masks to match outfits.

"This year more people are cooking up a storm at their homes," said Ms Watchmaker.

They are making Indian desserts and fusion sweets like saffron milk cakes.

On Diwali day, the Watchmaker family will light diyas and create rangolis, patterns created on the floor using coloured rice, sand or flower petals.

Where can people enjoy Diwali celebrations and fireworks?

Fireworks will be organised at the Global Village and The Pointe.

Both venues will welcome residents and tourists to enjoy choreographed performances of light and sound to mark Diwali.

There will also be a specially designed performance at The Palm Fountain, and fireworks on Friday.

Global Village will have performances, live shows and a musical fireworks display on Friday at 9pm.

Flash mobs and a Diwali themed live show will also take place at Global Village.