Dubai's Blue Mosque serves Iftar to one and all
People end their fast at Al Farooq Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque in Jumeirah. - Photo by Juidin Bernarrd
At 6.30pm, we see a long serpentine queue of people stretched for nearly a kilometre.
Published: Thu 9 May 2019, 10:00 PM
Last updated: Fri 10 May 2019, 12:55 AM
Inspired by the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Al Farooq Omar bin Al Khattab Mosque in Jumeirah has been a magnificent tourist attraction. Since it was established in 2011, the mosque has been hosting Iftar to thousands of worshippers every evening. Today, over 1,500 people from all walks of life visit the mosque for Iftar - be it Muslims or non-Muslims, residents or tourists. While most come here to end their fast, some visit simply to marvel at the architectural wonder and learn more about Islam. This mosque is one of the few in the UAE that opens its interiors to non-Muslims.
Abdul Salam Al Marzooqi, general manager of the mosque, said: "Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, chairman of Al Habtoor Group, built this mosque to be a landmark for Muslims and tourists around the world. We also invite different communities including non-Muslims to introduce them to Iftar. This is the Year of Tolerance and our Iftar signifies the true meaning of tolerance."
At 6.30pm, we see a long serpentine queue of people stretched for nearly a kilometre. What awaits them is a bowl of harees, biryani - either chicken or lamb - fruits, juice, laban and dates. While about 800 people are tightly packed inside the air-conditioned tent, 700 others struggle to find a spot in the outside seating area against the backdrop of the artistic mosque.
Mohammed Ilyas from Mangalore, India, has lived in Bur Dubai for the last 16 years. Every evening he commutes all the way to Jumeirah to end his fast at the mosque. "I am very impressed by their arrangement, warm hospitality and discipline," he said.
Over 20 people are dedicated to cook, package and transport the food that involves a massive 700kg of rice, 600kg of chicken and 700kg of lamb. The star attraction of the meal is harees, one of the most popular traditional foods in the Emirati culture made with boiled wheat mixed with chicken or lamb. The wheat is washed and soaked in water for about 20 hours and then slow-cooked with the meat for 12 hours, to produce four giant simmering pots of the porridge-like dish.
Antoine Sassine, assistant general manager, Metropolitan Catering, said: "We don't transfer the food into boxes and deliver to the mosque. Instead we store the meals in hot cabinets and transport them to the mosque. At Iftar time, we serve the food directly from the hot cabinets. By doing this, the food is served hot."
(There are plenty of spots that offer free Iftars to anyone who comes calling. Watch this space every Friday during the holy month as we feature the spots that epitomise the Emirati values of tolerance and giving)