Dubai: It is an age-old custom on the UAE desert every Ramadan. Hundreds of off-roaders from several UAE clubs get together for a grand Iftar in the desert.
The picturesque location is fondly called — the Iftar Bowl — by a group of desert safari enthusiasts, who ensure every year the Ramadan meet up happens.
Of course, on the agenda was also a clean-up drive by the desert warriors to ensure their part to keep their “playground” free from garbage and litter.
On of the active participants is Japanese expat Azusa Shiraki, an avid off-roader.
Fondly called “Zeus” by her colleagues and friends, Shiraki said the Iftar Bowl has become an annual event of gathering to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan in the middle of the desert.
“It is a grand Iftar for we see hundreds of off-roaders come together and celebrate. We eat together and also do a clean-up drive just to keep the place clean.
“I am always amazed by the sheer number of vehicles that come. People gather around in the desert, share their eats and drinks with others. Many break their Iftar on the desert. It is a very special event indeed.”
She said that through the years, the Iftar Bowl event has become a social cause with friends breaking fast together on the desert.
“I personally look forward to the Iftar Bowl’s Grand Iftar and catching up with old and new friends alike. It’s an event that brings the off-road community together and allows us to enjoy the beauty of the desert and the spirit of Ramadan.”
Another desert warrior and founding member of Arabian off-roaders, Muhammed Sarwar, reminisced how the annual Iftar event started way back in 1991.
“A bunch of us off-roaders wanted to have Iftar in the desert and we came across this huge bowl. It was a massive pocket of place where we could stand around the bowl and see the entire surrounding desert dunes. It was such a beautiful spot that we decided to keep it for our annual Ramadan gathering,” said the Indian expat.
He added: “The following year, we came to the same place and called it an Iftar Bowl. Today it is a favourite celebration point on the desert. This year we had over 300 cars parked on the desert for Iftar.”
Safety is a priority
Sarwar said a team of leaders brief their mates on the route about the terrain they will be taking to Iftar Bowl. “Participants are also briefed to observe discipline and not disturb the neighbouring communities. As a rule, we leave nothing behind after the Iftar except our foot prints. Every year we do a sweep of the desert, after the Iftar. It is our way of giving back to the desert that has given us so much and what better time to show it than in Ramdan.”
Filipina Laila Estrella Taha said : “I have been attending the Iftar Bowl since 2014. It is something I look forward to every Ramadan. We gather around by mid-afternoon to catch the beautiful high dunes. We break the fast in the desert. It is a beautiful experience.”
She said: “Initially I started going there with few family members and friends. Now it is a massive event.”
Preserving the desert
“Iftar is a religious observance and is often done as a community, the off-roading fraternity along with family members bring home made dishes to share and bond. We settle at the bottom of the Iftar Bowl and break our fast at sunset. The clean-up happens as soon as we are done with our meals. It is great to see everyone preserving the desert beauty by not loitering and collecting garbage.”
The off-roaders pay attention to not wasting food either.
“Ramadan is a holy month where we care for one another. It is a month we share and care for one another. Food wastage is just not done at our Iftar Bowls. Everyone just brings enough to eat and share with a friend or family member.”
Taha said after the meals everyone prays on the desert. “We also prepare tea for all the karak lovers including myself. All participants are given duties and responsibilities. As the temperatures drop, we prepare for Suhoor camp overnight. We wake up the next day for an early morning drive back home.”