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Three-Day Muslim Holiday Begins Across Most of Arab World


Today marks the start of the annual three-day Eid al Fitr holiday which follows the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 9 Arab states across the Middle East. It is a time when the pious pray, doting parents give gifts, and children light firecrackers, as Edward Yeranian reports for VOA from Beirut.

Tens of thousands of worshippers gathered at the Grand Mosque in Islam's holy city of Mecca to hear the prayer leader exhort them to become better Muslims and to follow God, on the first day of the Eid al Fitr holiday, marking the end of Ramadan.

Al Arabiya TV showed Saudi King Abdallah praying amidst a throng of worshippers, while the Arab daily Asharqalawsat reported that the King was appealing for "Muslim unity" across the world.

The three-day Eid al Fitr holiday begins Tuesday in nine Arab states, with the exception of Egypt and Syria, after Muslim scholars sighted the crescent moon, overnight, bringing an end to the month of Ramadan, according to Islam's lunar calendar.

Eid al Fitr is a time of joy for Muslims, filled with family visits, gift-giving and sumptuous meals. Ibrahim, 11, explains what the holiday means to him.

He says its a time to have fun and play and he says its a beautiful holiday when everyone celebrates together. He says he and his friends go to the pinball arcade.

On Beirut's tree-lined Hamra Street, parents stroll leisurely past store-windows filled with gifts, children in tow.

A young man in a Mickey Mouse costume dances with children in front of the El Dorado super store, as parents shop inside for toys, new clothes and sweets.

Bustle and festivities aside, Abu Ziyad, a professor, explains what the Eid al Fitr holiday means to him.

"It's mandatory to have a little feast, the family around, praying to God that they (sic) have saved them, helped them, allowed them to carry on with this great month….this is the whole idea of the al Fitr," Abu Ziyad explained.

Meanwhile, pops, bangs, whistles and booms pierce the air, as adolescents annoy their elders by lighting firecrackers.

Firecrackers are illegal in some Arab countries, especially in the Gulf, but they are generally tolerated during Eid al Fitr. They are often sold on the street and carry whimsical names like Osama bin Laden and the B-52 bomber.

Giving color to the scene, beggars, young and old, work the crowds to profit from a friendly holiday spirit of generosity.