Eid al-Fitr — better known as Eid (or Hari Raya for us Malaysians)— is a celebration marking the completion of Ramadan and the most anticipated holiday for Muslims worldwide. The celebration typically starts with the appearance of a new moon at the beginning of the month. Hence, every country’s official day may differ, depending on location.
Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt are usually among the first to greet the blessed day. Therefore, if you’re considering a getaway around the Middle East during Eid, you’re in for a festive treat. Here’s all you need to know about the celebrations and how most Muslims in the Middle East will celebrate.
1. Saudi Arabia
Eid al-Fitr is Saudi Arabia’s major Islamic festival, so you can expect them to uphold their cultural traditions. The morning usually starts with men donning their best attire and making their way to the grand mosque, where thousands of Muslims congregate for the Eid morning prayer.
The day then proceeds with relatives and friends visiting one another. Much like any festivities happening around the world, you can expect the locals to prepare their homes for the holidays by putting up ornaments and decorations to welcome guests.
Best places to visit in Saudi Arabia: Al-Zahra’Mosque, Al Marjan Island, Kingdom Centre, Deerah Souq, Diriyah
In Turkiye, particularly in Istanbul, you can expect the celebrations to be more modernised. Lights and ornaments can be seen along the roads, and shimmering celebratory messages are shown atop the mosque minarets. The day is usually spent with family and friends gathered at the seashore, where kiosks and stalls offer traditional refreshments.
Non-Muslims are welcome here, with pubs and bars remaining open. Several restaurants even provide a banquet-style menu with the country’s famous delicacies on display, so it’s an excellent opportunity to indulge in a mouth-watering venture.
Best places to visit in Turkiye: Hagia Sophia, Süleymaniye Mosque, Grand Bazaar, Taksim Square
Instead of an intimate and private family gathering, Egyptians much prefer to spend time outdoors, enjoying Eid with neighbours and the community. Most families will flock and gather at marketplaces or malls to watch the mobile carnivals, street performers, and spinners enthralling the crowd with classic fables. Their roadways will also transform into one enormous farmyard with the sights of wandering sheep, cows, and even camels. That said, celebrating Eid in Egypt would be a treasured experience.
Best places to visit in Egypt: Moez Street, Muhammad Ali Mosque, Khan el Khalili Bazaar, The Cairo Opera House
Food and marketplaces are the focal areas of Morocco during Eid. If you’re in town, Marrakesh’s busy medina pathways are home to ancient twisting souks and innumerable antiquities. Following morning prayers and khutbah (sermon) at the mosque, the neighbourhoods are usually crowded with smoky grills, as different dishes are prepared and distributed between family members and communities.
You can expect a lot of markets around towns and tiny villages, along with cages full of sheep waiting to be brought home and cooked.
Best places to visit in Morocco: Marrakech, Medina of Fez, Hassan II Mosque, Chefchaouen, Moulay Idriss Zerhoun
5. United Arab Emirates (UAE)
The UAE is the place to be if you’re looking to spend Eid in an extravagant way. Muslim and non-Muslims are welcome to come out and celebrate the blessed day. Expect malls to be crowded, theatre tickets to be sparse, and eateries across the city will see unusually lengthy lines.
However, exciting events like traditional dance performances, live music, and unique exhibitions are all expected to be held in the city’s major public locations. While the Ramadan season serves as a calm and meditative period, Eid celebrations in the UAE are fuelled by a lot of celebratory energy and enthusiasm.
Best places to visit in UAE: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, La Mer, Al Seef, Deira Waterfront Market, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi