Muslims in the Middle East and across the Islamic world ended their final sunrise-to-sunset fast and did last-minute shopping for sweets, clothes and toys Wednesday ahead of a three-day holiday celebrating the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
From the Philippines to Morocco, Muslims prepared for the Eid al-Fitr holiday or started the celebrating right after their last sunset meal. In the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, children paraded through the streets carrying candles. There were fireworks in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
Stalls in street markets in Lebanon and Egypt were packed with multi-colored candies, and cooks made pastries of filo dough.
Eid al-Fitr Arabic for the "festival of breaking the fast" is a time for family gatherings and meals that will leave the streets of Cairo and other Arab cities virtually empty Thursday. For the next two days, people flood parks and other public places, with children decked out in new clothes for the occasion.
Observant Muslims refrain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, the month in Islam's lunar calendar when it is believed that the first verses of the Quran Islam's holy book were revealed to the prophet Muhammad in the 7th century.
In the Iraqi capital, workers were making final adjustments to the Luna amusement park, where hundreds of families are expected to celebrate.
"We pray to almighty God on the occasion of Eid that stability and security would prevail so that people can picnic. They are fed up of being always at home in fear of blasts," said one Iraqi, Mohsen Chasib.
At the start of Ramadan, al-Qaida militants in Iraq called for stepped up attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces. Some extremists believe they receive additional blessings if they die fighting for Islam during Ramadan.
But Iraq saw relatively few attacks on civilians for much of the month amid intensified security for a constitutional referendum and the start of Saddam Hussein's trial. However, U.S. casualties were high with more than 90 Americans killed in October, reports the AP. I.L.