Ramadan is a time to embrace generosity, but being mindful of wastefulness and excess when preparing and enjoying iftar is important, too.
Emirati Life: Fasting shouldn't result in landfill
In the US, Ramadan was like any other month for me.
Sure, I knew when it arrived and when it ended with Eid, but I never felt the spirit of Ramadan like I do here.
Of all the daily Ramadan routines, no other has allowed me to reconnect to the Holy Month more than that of the breaking of the fast with family, friends and dignitaries at a home, restaurant or majlis. Sharing the joy and appreciation of your first sip of water and bite of date with people who have fasted for more than 15 hours during the peak of an Emirati summer creates an atmosphere like no other.
And then the quality and variety of food offered during Ramadan is unlike the rest of the year, with most iftars providing a feast for the senses.
But what troubles me about dinners this time of year is the blatant and unabashed waste of food.
Homes, hotels and restaurants are guilty of providing mountains of food that even the most gluttonous cannot scale.
Kitchens and cooks around the country are busier than ever at this time, preparing lavish meals with endless dishes and huge quantities to satisfy big eyes but small stomachs.
I have witnessed an iftar dinning table so filled with dishes that the guests had to set their plates on their laps for lack of space, which mattered little to the host and guests alike.
I have seen restaurant buffets so filled with food that even if their clientele could magically quadruple that night, they would still have enough left over to feed an army.
It is estimated that over 500 tonnes of food are wasted every day during Ramadan in Abu Dhabi alone, with discarded food making up 35 per cent of household waste.
This is not only a waste of money and resources but is an environmental hazard, as rotting food in landfills produces significant amounts of harmful greenhouse gases in the form of methane.
The excess production and wasting of food also goes against the spirit of Ramadan and Islam itself.
If the Holy Month is a time to empathise with those less fortunate, then surely discarding massive amounts of food cannot sit right in our consciousness.
If Ramadan is a time when one is meant to strengthen their bond with Islam, then going against its principles of moderation, thoughtfulness and compassion by wasting food must be of concern.
Undoubtedly, there will always be excess food during Ramadan because of increased hunger and reduced appetites. Many individuals and charities are addressing this by making it a point to share their food surpluses with those who have less.
But the key to limiting waste is producing less.
Understandably, Ramadan is a time for giving and many want to extend their hospitality to their hungry and thirsty guests. But the custom of generosity must not be lumped in with the practice of excess and wastefulness.
Exercising restraint when shopping, cooking and preparing iftars could go a long way in reducing the country's already heavy weight of waste.
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