Ramadan in UAE: For Abra drivers, it's a simple meal of fritters and fruits for Iftar

They take a short break from work to buy essentials ahead of ending their fast

By SM Ayaz Zakir

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Published: Fri 22 Apr 2022, 8:13 PM

Last updated: Fri 22 Apr 2022, 11:22 PM

The busy waters of Dubai Creek go still as the call for Maghrib Azaan rings out from the ancient mosque nearby.

As if on cue, the dozens of Abras fall silent as the drivers stop their furious runs from Bur Dubai to Deira and back, to end their fast with a simple meal of fritters and fruits.

After a hard day’s work, its time for a breather for these hardy men; the lines on their calloused hands and their craggy faces telling of countless stories of toil and loneliness.

A few minutes before taking a break from work, Mohammed Salim steers his boat towards the Deira side to buy essentials for Iftar. After docking his boat, he begins preparing for to end the fast with his friends and colleagues.

“We all end our fast on our respective boats, but the preparation for Iftar is the most interesting part,” said Salim.

The Bangladeshi expat said they all have company for Iftar - either a family member or friends — and this is what makes it special for the drivers.

After purchasing food from nearby cafeterias, the Abra drivers get on to cutting fruits, preparing salads and Iftar drinks on their parked boats. “We prepare to end our fast together. And, when we hear the cannon being fired, we end our fast on the Dubai Creek,” said Salim.

Daily routine

The Abra drivers begin their day early in the morning after Fajr prayers. It is important to reach early as they need to take a token for the trips. “If I reach late to collect the token, my turn to ferry passengers is delayed,” said Salim.

For every trip, these drivers must take a token and wait for their chance to ferry people. “In between each trip, we pray and recite the Quran,” said Salim.

Salim said he makes about 15 trips during a typical day, these abra drivers earn about Dh80 per day after deducting expenses for boat licensing, fuel, rentals, maintenance etc. “We keep aside Dh20 from what we earn for our Suhoor and Iftar meals,” Salim explained.

“Sometimes, some kind souls do give us food for Iftar, but those times are few and far between. And many a time when someone comes to distribute meals, we may be on a trip or on the other side of the Creek, so its not certain,” said Salim.

“But we are happy! Thankfully business has increased now compared to the last two years when the pandemic hit us hard,” added Salim.

Salim said after Iftar, some of them exchange their tokens to match the time for Taraweeh prayers. “Soon after the prayers, we work until 10pm or 11pm, before calling it a night,” said Salim.


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