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Muslims Worldwide Celebrate Eid Al-Fitr

Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the breaking of the fast after the holy month of Ramadan.

As hundreds of Muslims bow in prayer, bright gold balloons above their heads spell out "Eid Mubarak," meaning "blessed Eid," the traditional Muslim greeting for the holiday.

In North America, it is the first day of Eid al-Fitr, and Muslims in the Washington area are assembled in a giant hall of the city's convention center to say special prayers, socialize and exchange gifts, and to eat during daylight hours for the first time in a month.

The event is part prayer, part party. It features a large section for prayers, and other areas for carnival games, stalls selling beaded jewelry, perfumes, clothing and toys, and places to donate money and canned goods for the needy.

Kenyan-born Yasmin Khan used to join in the celebrations when she lived just outside of Washington. Although she and her family now live a few hours away, she said she is drawn back to Washington because the festival here is so lively. "I've come specially to celebrate Eid. We used to live here, and we've brought our children back to meet our friends and neighbors and just to celebrate Eid, generally," she said.

The three-day festival of Eid al-Fitr is celebrated differently throughout the world. In general, Muslims pray, enjoy large meals with loved ones, and sometimes give gifts to children.

The festival is also celebrated on different days worldwide, as the holiday is based on the sighting of the new moon.

In some countries, including the United States, Egypt and Indonesia - the nation with the world's largest Muslim population - Eid observances began Sunday.

Throngs of Indonesians left the cities to visit family and friends in their hometowns, crowding trains and causing traffic jams on roads.

In the contested Himalayan region of Kashmir, Muslims gathered in mosques Sunday to pray for peace. In other parts of India, eid observances will begin Monday.

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia and neighboring nations, Muslims started their celebrations Saturday with huge feasts.

The normally festive holiday has fallen during a period of mourning in the United Arab Emirates for the president, who died less than two weeks ago. There were subdued observances in the West Bank and Gaza out of respect for Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader who died Thursday.