Celebrating Diwali in Dubai also means experiencing a mix of traditions from different cultural backgrounds
It's again the time of the year when the predominantly Indian neighbourhoods of Bur Dubai and Karama are glowing with lights and bright colours.
Many residents put up colourful lights to illuminate their balconies, turning the entire block from Mankhool Road to Meena Bazaar and its outskirts into a magical world, celebrating Diwali or Deepavali - the festival of lights.
"There is actually no formal competition wherein families vie to have the best balcony lights," Indian expat Sachin Nandwani tells Khaleej Times. "We decorate our homes because the festive spirit of Diwali is alive and well. Although we may not be able to celebrate here in Dubai as much as in India, our families and friends still enjoy the revelry.
"As an age-old tradition, we brighten up our balconies with colourful lights to show happiness and our deep communal bond," Nandwani underlines.
The spike in electric bill or the money spent in buying twinkling electric lights, lamps or lanterns is not a big concern, according to Nandwani. It brings good luck for the entire year, he adds. In fact, he has decorated his balcony as early as a week ago and says his family spends around Dh2,000 every year for the illumination and sweets for Diwali alone.
"Diwali is my most awaited event of the year. There are bright lights and lots of sweets," adds Paridhi, Nandwani's five-year-old daughter.
Celebrating Diwali in Dubai also means experiencing a mix of traditions from different cultural backgrounds. The festivity is reflective of the city's multi-ethnic character. Therefore, lights should not be monochromatic - it has to be an explosion of colours, says Dubai resident Manoj Aheeray.
"The more colourful the better. Happiness is multi-coloured and Diwali is the victory of good over evil, that's why we are celebrating the triumph of the forces of good with bright and colourful lights," he adds.
"We also decorate our homes with rangolis (colourful abstract designs) and earthen lamps of various shapes and sizes to ask the goddess Lakshmi to enter our homes and request her to give our family prosperity for the coming year," Aheeray adds.
The designs for the Diwali lights and rangolis are always very intricate. "It takes patience and great skills and some families actually hire professionals to do them," explains Tarun Gusnani, 38, a sales manager in a Dubai company.
"Aside from the lights, it is also customary to keep flowers such as lotus, and fresh fruits in the prayer room. We also light lamps and incense sticks inside the house. For all of these, our family spend between Dh3,000-Dh4,000 every year, including sweets and some smaller firecrackers we light up in a few open spaces," says Tarun.
"But more importantly, it is the deep feeling of togetherness with our families, loved ones and friends pervading the atmosphere that truly makes Diwali both magical and divine," Tarun adds.
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