Inside the multipurpose room, there were framed and decorated verses of the Koran, attractively embroidered tunics and pottery patterned in maroon and navy.
Family members and friends greeted each other next to a table where a CD of melodious Koranic recitations played. Meanwhile, at another table, Nazma Chowdry, 20, and her friends from Manassas eyed perfumed oils of amber and musk, imported from the Persian Gulf.
Eid al-Fitr is the Muslim festival of breaking fast after the month of Ramadan. But it was clear within Sterling's ADAMS Center on Saturday that this celebration was a feast for all the senses, not just taste.
The festivities marked the end of Ramadan and drew nearly 1,000 Muslims from near and far to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center.
The month of Ramadan is observed by a daily fast from dawn till dusk, among other abstinences.
And so food, lots of food, was a big part of Saturday's celebration. Guests waited for rice and chicken in a line that extended the length of the room. Volunteers heaped the food from steaming vats onto paper plates, and adults ate and shared stories at long tables in the middle of the room.
Many wore traditional hats, tunics and embroidered gowns; one woman's face was covered with a black niqab, or veil, revealing only her eyes. But one young man wore a T-shirt emblazoned with "Islam Inside," in a spoof of the Intel logo.
Some said Ramadan helped them understand the suffering of those who are less fortunate.
"During Ramadan, we feel what hungry people have to go through every day," said Hajira Afreen, 13, who had come with her father, cousin and brother, all of Sterling.
"Without Ramadan we have everything," Hajira translated for her father, Aftab H. Shah, originally from Pakistan. "With Ramadan, we find out what it's like for people who don't have food, who don't have money."
Muslims observe Ramadan as the period during which the Koran was divinely revealed to the prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam.
Many emulate that self-reflection during Ramadan.
"Religious holidays everywhere bring you closer to God, to your family and make you think of your place in the world," said Isabel Showkatian, 45, of Vienna, who came with her three daughters, Tahereh, 19, Fatima, 18, and Aliah, 3. "This is a time for us to be doing more of what we should be doing during the year."
Eid al-Fitr is a three-day festival. The ADAMS Center, which serves about 5,000 families, celebrates the occasion every few years, with revelry, food and prayer.
On Thursday, thousands of area Muslims observed the start of Eid al-Fitr at the center by praying while facing toward Mecca, the Saudi city where Muhammad was born and spent a part of his life, and the Kaaba, the stone shrine considered by Muslims to be the most sacred spot on Earth.
ADAMS Center President Rizwan Jaka said the center's celebration was purposely planned for the weekend to attract more people.
But with the beautiful weather, luring large crowds wasn't a problem. Outside, some children blew bubbles. Others waited in shorts and T-shirts for a turn on the moon bounce, while their mothers, many covered in scarves and long dresses, chatted on the sidelines. Occasionally, one would look up to catch a child's trick or nod in approval before returning to her conversation.
Riyad Shamma, 36, traveled with his family from Cincinnati to visit relatives during Eid al-Fitr. "This is a celebration of remembering God and joyous times," he said as his son Yousef, 4, ran off to inspect the activities. "You want to make it a special day for the kids."