Dubai: Ramadan meals are being saved from going waste — thanks to smart management at city mosques and small cafeterias — with some help from hungry residents as well.
Ramadan is a holy Islamic month when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. But piles of leftovers from night meals, often at fancy buffets in New Dubai, are trashed.
A different picture emerges in the maze of narrow streets carving up Old Dubai, in Deira and Bur Dubai. As the sun sets to mark iftar — the end of the fasting day — lanes fill up with worshippers. They walk to mosques and tiny neighbourhood cafés dotting the streets.
The houses of prayer have a tradition of hosting free iftar meals gifted by anonymous residents.
Some 2,000 people feast daily at the bus-stop mosque — officially called Fatima Hassan Mosque — in Bur Dubai alone. Around 200kg of rice and 300kg of meat are cooked every day for biryani, a favourite dish of Asian and Arab residents. Everyone is served a plate of biryani, some fruits, dates, water, milk and juice, spread out on floor mats outside the mosque.
When the seating spaces are full, people line up standing, holding whatever food they can in their hands, waiting for the call to prayer that ends the day's fast.
After a quick prayer they start eating and drinking till it's time to join group prayers inside the mosque.
No food goes waste, iftar manager Noor Mohammad said.
"We have a good idea of how many people show up and we cook accordingly. If there are any leftovers, they are parcelled and taken away," Mohammad said."In fact, we usually fall a little short of biryani and juice — some people like to take more than their share."
Several corner shops selling iftar snacks and Ramadan dinners also claim to be low on waste. The sight of people milling at iftar snack stalls has become symbolic of Ramadan.
There is, however, "some waste" during the first few days of the holy month as cafeterias try to adjust to how much to prepare based on the average daily customer count, a cook in Deira said.
"It's guesswork at first, but it soon evens out. There's hardly any waste," he said.
"If there are leftovers, we pack them up and drop them off at mosques — even though that's not allowed under municipality rules."
He said tidbits like dates that stay good for long are given to iftar customers for free. A complimentary glass of water is also common during Ramadan. Some cafés even serve a free bowl of diced fruit.
A young fasting Bangladeshi worker popped in at a restaurant near the bus-stop mosque at iftar time, had dates, water and fruit and then left for prayers — without paying.
"Basically, whatever is not sold is given away for free," another cook who did not wish to be named said. "We don't give away half-eaten stuff, it's all proper."