x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

The workers' Ramadan in Abu Dhabi's industrial zone

Mussaffah's residents toil in the sun for most of the day, so when they break their fast at dusk it is even more satisfying, reports James Langton

Workers break their fast at the Sheikh Khalifa mosque in Abu Dhabi’s Mussaffah area. Christopher Pike / The National
Workers break their fast at the Sheikh Khalifa mosque in Abu Dhabi’s Mussaffah area. Christopher Pike / The National

To outsiders, the industrial district of Mussaffah can seem like a lost city of impenetrable byways and near identical warehouses, a short drive from the island of Abu Dhabi but in another world.

It is as far from the glitz and glam of the capital's shopping malls and five-star hotels as it is possible to imagine.

But while iftar may not be a lavish buffet in a luxury tent, at sunset the residents and workers of Mussaffah still look forward to breaking the fast.

Many of those who toil here do so in the open air and without the benefit of air-conditioned offices, in energy-sapping humidity and temperatures that regularly hit the mid 40s. But while such conditions may test their resolve and their faith, it makes the first sip of water or mouthful of food all the sweeter.

Many of Mussaffah's population of about 150,000 come from poor countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan. Few earn more than a thousand or so dirhams a month, much of it sent home to support families they see perhaps once every two years.

In this environment, the local mosques become central to the community, nourishing not just the spirit but the appetites of men whose hunger is sharpened by nearly 15 hours without food or water.

Yet their faith does not waiver and in Mussaffah, the true spirit of Ramadan is to be found.

jlangton@thenational.ae