Libyans on Wednesday wept over the graves of those killed in their six-month war against Muammar Gaddafi, then celebrated their newfound freedom with morning prayers and joyous chants in the capital's main square — bittersweet rituals marking the start of a major Muslim holiday.
Men in their holiday finest — white robes and gold-striped vests — knelt in neat prayer rows in Martyrs' Square, the plaza formerly known as Green Square, where Gaddafi supporters massed nightly during the uprising.
Women in black robes ululated, rebel fighters fired guns in the air and people burst into spontaneous chants of "Hold your head high, Libya is free!"In one corner, five rebel fighters formed a reception line, like at a wedding, and civilians walked up to them, shaking their hands in gratitude.
In another area of the square, people crowded around a thick metal pole decorated with political cartoons, one depicting Gaddafi as a pig and another as a monster on a psychiatrist's couch. Adel Taghdi, 47, choked back tears as watched the festivities.
Having spent long years in Canada, he said he had felt no sense of belonging when he saw Gaddafi's green flag. Now, he said, he is proud of Libyans and his country. "I never felt that way before," said Taghdi, who owns a tile shop in the capital. "We just want to live free."
Wednesday marked the start of the three-day holiday of Eid el-Fitr, which caps the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
The start of the holiday is determined by the sighting of a new moon, and several countries in the Arab world started marking the holiday on Tuesday. Morning visits to cemeteries are part of the Eid el-Fitr tradition across the region.