Ramadan in UAE: What goes behind providing meals at Iftar tents

The Iftar preparation process starts after Zuhr prayers at 3pm, and the meals are served until 8pm

Photos by M Sajjad
Photos by M Sajjad

By SM Ayaz Zakir

Published: Thu 7 Apr 2022, 8:15 PM

Last updated: Fri 8 Apr 2022, 7:05 PM

Hosting Iftar for workers and residents during the holy month of Ramadan is a routine affair for mosques and charity associations in the UAE. The faithfuls end their fast together at several tents that have been set up for this purpose - and where meals are distributed free of cost.

This year too, hundreds of residents have volunteered to provide as well as serve Iftar meals at tents across the country.

The preparation process starts after Zuhr prayers at 3pm, and the meals are served until 8pm, before the faithful congregate for Isha and Taraweeh prayers.

Here's a snapshot of how it all comes together:

Behind the scenes

To get a closer look at what goes behind the organising of these Iftar meals, Khaleej Times visited an Iftar tent at Rolla Street in Sharjah, where meals are served by the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC).

Over 25 volunteers get together to serve food for more than 1,500 residents from the nearby areas. There are two tents that accommodate about 1,000 people, and more than 500 food packets are distributed to nearby homes and shops.

The Iftar package here consists fruits, juice, water and rice-based dishes like biryani or fried rice. One of the volunteers, Mujeeb, has been assigned to oversee the entire operation at the tents.

He is one of the earliest to reach the spot at 3pm. Their first task is to clean the tent area. Then, the fruits are cut into portion sizes by a chef's assistant. “We source our fresh supplies from Al Awir Fruit Market. As soon as we receive it, we wash the fruits thoroughly,” explained Mujeeb. "They are then packed in plastic bags for distribution.”

The cooked meals are supplied in large vessels by restaurants and arrive by 3.30pm. Volunteers then place them in individual paper containers and arrange them in rows in the dining area. Residents usually start arriving at the tent by 5.30pm.

Highlighting the quality of the food, a volunteer at the tent said that each and every item is checked before it is served.

Covid rules for Iftar tents

Mujeeb then proceeded to explain the rules and regulations stipulated by the authorities for setting up Iftar tents.

KMCC first set up the Iftar tents in 2019, but after Covid struck, they were not allowed to operate tents due to safety protocols imposed across the country.

On March 14 this year, the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) announced that permits were mandatory for setting up Iftar tents. Permissions had to be sought from Emirates Red Crescent (ERC). The location of the tents and the capacity was decided by authorities in each Emirate.

The tents have to be well-lit and cooled, as specified by the Labour Standards Development Authority, Sharjah and the Emirates Red Crescent Society.

Communal affair

Hundreds of residents line-up in a queue at about 5.30pm, and after reciting Adhkaars and prayers, they enter the tents. Volunteers are designated to ensure safety protocols are followed and to check visitors' body temperatures before they are allowed into tent.

Once residents are seated, they are given their food packets. Speeches and sermons are delivered in the tent for people to understand the purpose behind fasting, and how one should spend their day. A talk is given on Covid-19 protocols, while a scholar delivers a sermon ahead of the Maghrib call to prayers.

After Iftar is over, the volunteers get together again for the clean-up process. “The first task is to clean the tents. Our volunteers collect the waste and pack it for disposal,” Mujeeb said.

The tents are vacuum-cleaned and sanitised after the clean-up operations, while officials conduct inspections to ensure thorough compliance with safety measures.


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