ABU DHABI // Thousands of devout Muslims made their way to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque early this morning to offer Eid Al Fitr prayersat the end of a month’s fasting and at the beginning of Shawwal.

Roads leading to the mosque were jam packed with cars and parking spaces were at a premium as traffic police did their best to guide drivers as they rushed to pray at 6.25am this morning.

The Grand Mosque can house 40,000 worshippers, with a separate space for women, but even that was not large enough as many people prayed around the building.

Despite the number of people present, a festive mood prevailed, as women embraced and everyone shared Eid greetings.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, was among the masses offering Eid prayer at the mosque this morning.

He was joined by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister; Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Foreign Minister; and Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Interior Minister; as well as members of the royal family, government ministers and a large number of sheikhs.

After the prayer, Sheikh Mohammed, members of the royal family and other dignitaries and ministers visited the tomb of his father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and prayed to God to admit the departed soul to eternal paradise.

Every year, the Grand Mosque witnesses the largest gathering of worshippers in the Emirates for Eid prayers. Due to the attendance of high-profile dignitaries, security was beefed up and a large number of police officers were deployed at all entry and exit gates.

Each worshipper also had to pass security check points with scanners.

Some had even travelled from Saudi Arabia to celebrate Eid in Abu Dhabi.

Munzir Abdul Malik, who came from holy city of Mecca on his first trip to the UAE capital, said: “This year I wanted to celebrate Eid in Abu Dhabi, so I am going to stay for two more days here. This is first time I have seen this giant and very beautiful mosque.

“I had heard about it but wanted to see it, so I did.”

Another Saudi, Ritaj Nasir Nowwaf, said: “Ramadan ended and we pray to Allah to accept our good deeds and forgive us on this holy day.

“I like this place, it’s great.”

Mohammed Yousuf, a Syrian resident of the capital, arrived at the mosque at 6am.

“I feel fantastic to pray here in such a huge gathering of people,” he said. “I pray to Allah to reward us with His bounties as we fasted for the entire month. This is the reward day.”

After the prayers, the imam of the mosque recited an Eid Al Fitr sermon and asked Muslims to take the lessons of generosity and obedience learnt during Ramadan in to the rest of the year with them.

He asked Muslims to pay Zakat Al Fitr so the poor can also enjoy the Eid celebrations.

And he congratulated everyone after a successful Ramadan and urged people to enjoy the Eid with their families and relatives, while also sharing the joy with the destitute.

source: The national.ae