From the Philippines to Morocco, Muslims prepared for the Eid al-Fitr holiday on Thursday. In the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, children paraded through the streets with long candles or rode through the streets waving flags and honking car horns. Children in the West Bank town of Ramallah set off fireworks.

Stalls in street markets in Lebanon and Egypt were packed with multicolored candies, and sweetsmakers spun filo dough into pastries.

Eid al-Fitr - Arabic for the "festival of breaking the fast" - is a time for family gatherings that will likely leave the streets of Cairo and other Arab cities virtually empty as relatives and friends go to each others' homes for meals. Then for the next two days, people flood parks and other public places, with children decked out in new clothes bought for the occasion.

A family does last-minute shopping
for Eid al-Fitr in Kuala Lumpur

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 Dhaka, thousands of holiday-makers began a mass exodus on Wednesday from Bangladesh's crowded capital for their home villages ahead of the Islamic world's largest festival.

"I am excited. I have got my paycheck and bought new clothes for my family," said garment worker Mosharraf Hossain, who planned to leave Dhaka later.

In Iraq

In Baghdad, construction workers were completing final adjustments to the Luna amusement park, where hundreds of families are expected to join in the festivities.

"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.

Iraqi and US authorities on Tuesday announced the release of about 500 inmates from the notorious Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad on the occasion of the Eid a-Fitr.

At the start of Ramadan, on 4 October, al-Qaida militants in Iraq had called for stepped up attacks against US and Iraqi forces during the month.

But Iraq saw relative calm in attacks on civilians for much of the month amid intensified security measures surrounding a 15 October referendum and the 19 October start of the trial of ousted leader Saddam Hussein.