RIYADH/JEDDAH, 31 December 2006 — Riyadh Gov. Prince Salman joined hundreds of thousands of citizens and expatriates in offering Eid Al-Adha prayers on the old Deira Eid Ground here yesterday. Several members of the royal family, religious scholars, ministers and high-ranking officials also attended the prayers, while the Eid celebrations, later in the day, were largely overshadowed by the news of execution of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Imam Hisham Al-Asheikh, who called upon Muslims to follow the teachings of Islam in their daily lives, led the prayers. Pointing out that Muslims were being humiliated in different parts of the world, Al-Asheikh called upon the Ummah to imbibe the true spirit of Islam in order to face the challenges ahead. Later, Prince Salman exchanged greetings with royal family members and citizens at the governorate.

The festive air of Eid was dampened as people were seen glued to their TV sets to watch the news of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s execution at dawn. Riyadh was noticeably free from the usual traffic headaches with many on vacation and others at home watching the news.

But, there were enough crowds at the herd-animal market yesterday as people did some last minute sacrificial-animal shopping. The seasonal price hikes in goats, sheep and camels didn’t stop shoppers from picking up clothes, seasonal sweets and toys for the kids.

“In fact, with Eid and new year round the corner, malls and hypermarkets are bursting at the seams as the crowds jostle to finish last-minute shopping,” said Hasan Khan, area manager of Food & Entertainment Co.

“And to make the hay while the rush is on, major stores have lined up attractive discounts for eager housewives,” said Saquib Manzar, a young shopper.

Not to be left behind, children are seen hobnobbing with the elders to get their wish list fulfilled. Topping the items on demand were clothes, toys, party items, sweetmeat, bakery and foodstuff.

“It’s true that the prices of a few items have leapfrogged but it has hardly affected sales,” said a counter staff at Panda hypermarket.

For Rizwana Khan, an expatriate teacher, it’s time to spend. She has purchased two goats this year.

“I turn a blind eye to prices during Eid and, in fact, I save money for occasions like this so that I can fulfill the wish list,” she added.

Badar Al-Ajlan, a Saudi national, agrees one cannot compromise on the celebrations for a festival like Eid.

“After all, it comes only once a year,” he said.

In Jeddah, citizens and expatriates thronged the Corniche, braving what is by Saudi standards cold weather.

Children especially were seen wearing new clothes.

“I look forward to Eid Al-Adha as I get to wear new clothes and am given eidiya (pocket money) to buy goodies of my choice,” Nasser Jamil, a student of Al-Thagher School, said.

Supermarkets, shopping malls and corner shops were all crowded in the past few days with families making last minute purchases for the Eid. Shops dealing in clothes, especially ready-made garments, had a busy time receiving last minute shoppers.

Due to the last minute rush, there were traffic jams on major roads and streets. Shopping malls like Serafi Megamall, Sultan Mall, Aziz Mall, Jamjoom Center and International Market on Madinah Road reported good sales.

“We unexpectedly a good business,” Abdul Karim Hanafi, an outlet manager at Serafi Megamall said. “Unexpectedly, because our clientele was mostly of local people and none of them pilgrims,” he said. “In the good old days, pilgrims used to be here for days before moving to Makkah for Haj and we used to do good business,” he added.

Earlier in the day, families celebrated Eid by offering prayers at various mosques, exchanging greetings and hosting parties for relatives and friends.

“We purchased new shoes, shirts and shorts for our boys,” said Yasmin Choudhry, a Pakistani housewife. “It is a joyful day for us, but we miss our relatives and friends at home.”

Sweetshops also did a roaring business. “We had a good number of orders for a variety of sweets in the past couple of days for the Eid,” Arshad Habib, a sweet outlet manager at Tahlia Street, said.

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