Moments before iftar at the Ramadan tent organised by Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Foundation for Humanitarian and Charitable Works in Musaffah, Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Samihah Zaman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: At the sound of the adhaan (call to prayer), dozens of residents bite into dates that are packed in a cardboard box. Seated on mats on the floor, they then dig into mandhi (Yemeni rice with meat dish) in a container, before rushing to pray at the adjoining mosque.

A common scene during the Ramadan across the UAE, it is made possible by the generosity of thousands of people and organisations who donate iftar meals to the community. Donors are once again able to make sizable contributions through approved channels after two years of limited meal distribution amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Feeding others

Islam considers the act of feeding a fasting individual to be particularly praiseworthy, and the UAE has always seen a surplus of bighearted people supporting the community with iftar meals.

At this particular tent in Musaffah’s residential area in Abu Dhabi, the meals were being provided by the Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Foundation for Humanitarian and Charitable Works. Aid workers began handing out mealboxes about an hour before the Maghrib sunset prayer that signals the end of the fast. While some recipients stayed back to enjoy the meal at the tent, others rushed back to their homes with the boxes.

Iftar mealboxes

Each box typically contains a rice-based dish with either chicken or mutton, dates, water, a fruit, a yoghurt drink, and sometimes a salad as well. Earlier, the charitable foundation said it expected to distribute 650,000 iftar mealboxes during Ramadan.

Dr Mohamed Ateeq Al Falahi

“The Foundation seeks during Ramadan to promote the values of giving and human solidarity embodied by UAE’s Founding Founder, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, may God rest his soul. We follow his example in our journey in all arenas of humanitarian action,” said the foundation’s director-general, Dr Mohamed Ateeq Al Falahi.

The foundation is one among many organisations engaged in distributing iftar across the UAE.

read more

Welcomed by residents

For recipients, the balanced meals offer much refreshment and satiety, especially as many are unable to prepare a full meal for themselves amid their busy work days.

Shehnaz Ahmed

“I come by with my friends and collect an iftar box every day. I’m very grateful to the authorities for looking out for us in this manner. After a day’s work, it is nice to meet up with friends and enjoy a ready meal before prayers at the mosque,” said Shehnaz Ahmed, a 37-year-old delivery person from Pakistan, who was waiting outside the tent in Musaffah.

Ahmad Kamara, 31, an expat from Sierra Leone, had also queued up to collect an iftar box, and said the meals helped him manage his finances during the holy month.

Ahmad Kamara

“It isn’t just that the meal is prepared for us, which makes it very convenient. It also helps reduce my expenses, and this is something I am truly thankful for,” he said.

Mohammed Ahmed, a purchasing executive from India, has brought along his nieces to the tent.

“We live nearby and often see the queues, so we decided to come and sample a meal today,” he said.

At another authorised tent in Abu Dhabi’s Al Makaziyah area that is supplied by a resident, a group of taxi drivers had gathered to enjoy iftar.

“I work in the city, so it is easy for me to stop be here for my meal and prayers. I would personally thank the kind hearts that supply these meals to so many people every day. They have helped sustain me throughout the holy month every year, and I have been here for 20 long years,” said R Rehman, a taxi driver from Pakistan.