MOGADISHU - Hearing sounds of fireworks and gunshots, Somali Muslims were overjoyed, recognizing that they were for celebrations marking `Eid Al-Fitr rather than violence that has marred their country over the past two-decades.
"I nearly burst into tears of happiness," Faisa Abdi Salad told The Indy Media Center on Monday, August 20.
Announcing the sighting of the new moon, that signals the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Salad first thought that Mogadishu was under attack from Al-Shabab group.
A few moments later, she recognized that the sound was of fireworks welcoming `Eid.
I felt afraid when I heard heavy gunshots and thought that Al Shabab had attacked a nearby police station," said Salad, a mother of five.
But then I realized that it was only for bullets fired in the air in celebration.
`Eid Al-Fitr is one the two main Islamic religious festivals along with `Eid Al-Adha.
Millions of Muslims across the world began celebrating the `Eid Al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan month of fasting on Sunday and Monday.
On Sunday, Mogadishu celebrated its first peaceful `Eid Al-Fitr in more than 20 years.
Posters and paintings covered the walls as Muslims celebrated with sweets and gifts of new clothes and toys for children.
Somalia has lacked an effective government since the ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
More than 14 attempts to restore a functional government have since failed.
Over the past couple of years, Somalia has sunk into abyss over the deadly fighting between government troops and militants of Al-Qaeda-inspired Al-Shabab militants.
Removing al-Shabaab from Mogadishu a year ago, many Somalis believe their country was changing to the better.
"Today I am very blessed to pray peacefully without fear of mortar shells and stray bullets," Fanah Abdiasiis Mohamed, 32, a mathematics teacher, said.
Like thousands of Somali Muslims, Mohamed woke up before dawn Sunday and got dressed in a new yellow sarong, a crisp white shirt and a red turban.
He went to the Adurahman Bin-Owf mosque in the Waberi district of the capital, praying at the deck of the mosque's first floor; an area that has been out of use in previous celebrations due to the violence.
"There is no doubt that Mogadishu faces a new era, and may Allah bring us peace and prosperity," Mohamed added.
Mohamed said he hoped the next Eid celebration would see Mogadishu so peaceful that residents could stay out celebrating until midnight -- "if the upcoming government doesn't bring back the trauma of the past."
During `Eid days, families and friends exchange visits to express well wishes and children, wearing new clothes bought especially for `Eid, enjoy going out in parks and open fields.
After special prayers to mark `Eid Al-Fitr, festivities and merriment start with visits to the homes of friends and relatives.
Traditionally, everyone wears new clothes for `Eid, and the children look forward to gifts and the traditional `ediya (cash).