x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Mohammed bin Rashid hails humanitarian role

Ramadan: Sheikh Mohammed also visited and prayed at the tomb of Sheikh Zayed, founder of the UAE, at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, where more than 20,000 people break their fast each day of Ramadan.

Labourers waiting to break their fast at a tent near Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National
Labourers waiting to break their fast at a tent near Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // The UAE is a leading hub for the delivery of humanitarian aid and the role is especially significant during Ramadan, the Prime Minister told a meeting of the Cabinet yesterday.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, urged residents to be charitable during the holy month.

"In the meeting, we emphasised that, as the founders wanted, the UAE will remain a major hub for humanitarian action and the month of Ramadan will remain a good season for giving to the needy everywhere," he wrote later on Twitter.

Sheikh Mohammed also visited and prayed at the tomb of Sheikh Zayed, founder of the UAE, at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, where more than 20,000 people break their fast each day of Ramadan.

The mass iftar is expected to offer complimentary meals to more than 700,000 people this Ramadan, said Yousif Al Obaidli, director general of the mosque.

A dozen air-conditioned tents have been erected to accommodate Muslims who travel up to 50 kilometers to break the fast there.

"I found this place very exciting and interesting and breaking fast in such an environment is great," said Ibrahim Muyingo, from Uganda, who came from the Icad workers' camp.

"I don't find such an environment in my country so I want to come as much as I can," Mr Muyingo said.

The centre arranges free transport for workers from labour camps throughout Abu Dhabi, including Baniyas, Mussaffah, Icad City and Al Wathaba.

Starting at 6pm, people from different corners of the mosque began to troop in to grab a seat inside the tents. Once the tents are full, new visitors sit on long carpets on the grass outside the mosque.

Mr Al Obaidli said: "In 2012, approximately 686,000 people broke their fast at the Grand Mosque. Each iftar tent has a capacity to accommodate people between 1,500 and 1,800."

At last night's iftar, the tents were filled with exuberance and enthusiasm as people come along with their families and children.

Small childen held hands while their parents walked carefully through the crowd to find the perfect dining spot, all against the stunning backdrop of the mosque, illuminated at night with high beams from white lamps.

Al Sayyed Farhat Nasir, from Egypt, came from Al Samha. "I felt pride to break the fast here," he said. "I come almost twice a week to break fast here. It's pleasure to be here."

The annual iftar programme has been offered by the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque since the passing of the UAE's founding father Sheikh Zayed in 2004 "and is done for the soul of His Highness", said Mr Al Obaidli.

The Armed Forces Officers Club in Abu Dhabi prepares and delivers about 20,000 iftar meal packages to the mosque every day.

A team of volunteers and staff organise, distribute and supervise the meal distribution into the Ramadan tents in the lower gardens of the mosque.

To manage such a large daily operation, the mosque cooperates with several Government departments including traffic, health and safety and waste management.

"Ramadan is a special time of the year and visitors are encouraged to take a guided tour and experience the Islamic culture of the mosque," Mr Al Obaidli said.

Rashid Kuttukkan, from India, who travelled from Baniyas: "Every year I come for iftar once a week, sometimes twice, and I also perform Eid prayers here because there is no place better that this."

During Ramadan, tours are offered daily by the mosque centre, at 10am and 11am, except Fridays. The visits are led by Emirati guides and include an interactive tour with information about the mosque, its architecture and its history.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was recently named one of the top 25 visitor attractions in the world by Tripadvisor.

The mosque also hosts a number of prominent Quran reciters to lead taraweeh and tahujjud prayers.

anwar@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by Thamer Al Subaihi