Abu dhabi // Worshippers gathered at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi to mark the beginning of Ramadan.
Adults and children came with their families to perform prayers and visit the iconic mosque to begin the month of purity and spirituality.
From cleansing themselves and empathising with the needy, to iftar gatherings and family get-togethers. The month of Ramadan holds a special meaning to individuals in many different ways.
For British national Shamim Shafi, who moved to the Emirates last year, Ramadan is all about giving.
“All nights throughout the month are for praying, so we try to read the Quran as much as possible and give as much charity as we can. We try giving even before Ramadan starts so the poor and needy can prepare for Ramadan and fast too,” Ms Shafi said.
"The prayers give you a special kind of feeling during Ramadan, especially the last 10 nights – Laylat-Ul-Qadr are my favourite. This is when the first verses of the Quran were revealed and are known to be nights of power," she said.
Daughter Zara Rahman said Ramadan meant cleansing of the soul.
“Every time Ramadan is upon us, the feeling is just so special,” she said. “It is like cleansing myself and having a one-to-one with God, that is what Ramadan is really all about.”
For Emirati mother Maitha Al Habsi, Ramadan means selflessness.
“The thing I look forward to the most during Ramadan is doing good for others. It is an opportunity for us to gather with the family and remember the essence of our religion and how it encourages us to do good to the community and be good human beings,” Ms Al Habsi said.
“It is a reminder for us that there are many others in the world who are needy and helping them in any possible way makes us feel very happy,” she said.
However her daughter, Shama Al Kitbi, was excited about plenty of shopping opportunities and celebrations.
“I really like going out shopping during Ramadan and getting new clothes to celebrate Eid,” aid the four-year-old. “I am very excited about Ramadan.”
Apart from spiritual cleansing, iftar gatherings - catching up with family and friends is important for Indian expat Mohammed Younus.
“The most special thing about Ramadan is iftar for sure,” he said. “We mostly get together with friends and family almost every day and do iftar, prayers and dinner together. The entire month feels like a special kind of a party, with family reunions and meeting with friends.
“Apart from the spiritual cause, I really look forward to iftar with my loves ones,” he said.
Several non-muslims across the country also choose to fast during Ramadan, either out of respect for their peers or to cleanse their bodies.
American expat Stephanie Vazquez is planning to fast during the month.
“I like the entire process of fasting in Ramadan,” said Ms Vasquez, who dressed in traditional Arab attire during her visit to the Grand Mosque. “It is sort of like a cleansing and that is what I like about it.
“This is the first time I am in a Muslim country during Ramadan, and I’m looking forward to fasting. I like the entire concept behind it, you are fasting, and it is also about self-discipline and control. “I think it is going to be an amazing experience and I especially look forward to the iftar and suhoor having heard so much about them,” she said.