Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 17 September 2019

Hundreds of iftar meals served up in Abu Dhabi to help motorists break their fast safely

Every day at dusk, dozens of volunteers make sure every motorist on the road has a date to break their fast

They are the smiling band of volunteers dedicated to spreading joy and boosting safety during Ramadan.

Sporting bright high-visibility jackets and armed with boxes of iftar treats, the caring team of helpers dishing out food to motorists preparing to break their fast are a familiar and welcome sight in the Emirates during the holy month.

For the past eight years, Emirates Red Crescent and Al Ihsan Charity Association have been joining forces with police to serve up a generous supply of seasonal goodwill at road stops across the country.

Dozens of volunteers line up at Abu Dhabi’s main junctions every day during the holy month shortly before and after iftar time to distribute the boxes containing dates, water, juice, a fruit and a mini-muffin.

Not only does the initiative foster a communal spirit in keeping with the holy month, it helps to cut down on potential road accidents by supplying hungry drivers who may otherwise be in a rush to get home to eat with vital sustenance.

In the beginning we get around a dozen, but as we approach mid-Ramadan we could get up to 80 volunteers on a single junction

Volunteer Mahmoud Afifi

On Tuesday, 360 meals were handed out at a single intersection in Zayed Sports City.

Motorists and bikers were delighted to receive the iftar boxes.

Abdullah Al Maamari was starting to panic as he stopped at a traffic light on Airport Road shortly before sunset.

With 20 minutes to go till he reached his destination in Khalifa City B, he knew he was bound to miss breaking fast on time.

His concerns were soon eased when a Red Crescent volunteer appeared at his window and handed him a complimentary iftar box.

“I was planning to rush home to catch iftar, but once I had the box I did not feel the need to rush anymore,” said the Emirati engineer, 28.

A motorbike rider stops off for food distributed by volunteers in conjunction with police. Victor Besa/The National
A motorbike rider stops off for food distributed by volunteers in conjunction with police. Victor Besa/The National

“I was with my brother and we heard the call for Maghrib while we were still on the way, but since we had the box we were relaxed as it had everything we needed to break out fast until we reached home.”

Mr Al Maamari was one of hundreds of motorists benefiting from the scheme.

Some stopped intentionally at the right turn before the traffic light to catch a meal.

Another man walked from the other side of the road and waved, asking if he could have a box, too.

Everybody was welcome to grab a meal as the volunteers divided themselves across the different corners of the intersection.

“Our role is to ensure that motorists don’t over-speed around iftar time,” said Mahmoud Afifi, an organiser from Al Ihsan who was in charge of that particular intersection.

“So we give them meals to break their fast and advise them to drive safely.”

The initiative is also carried out in six other Muslim countries, including Jordan, Egypt, Bosnia and Saudi Arabia.

“I used to volunteer in Egypt before, this is my second Ramadan in the UAE,” said the 30-year-old electric engineer.

The number of volunteers also tends to significantly increase throughout the holy month.

“In the beginning we get around a dozen, but as we approach mid-Ramadan we could get up to 80 volunteers on a single junction.”

Hana Al Buraiki, from Sanid, the national emergency response volunteer programme, has been taking part in the campaign for the past three years.

“My role [as a traffic signal leader] is to ensure the safety of volunteers and motorists,” said the 37-year-old Emirati.

Sanid volunteers undergo first-aid and rescue training regularly, and are therefore authorised to operate as paramedics and rescuers in case of emergencies.

It is training that can prove crucial.

“Last year two of our volunteers saved a man from fainting,” she said.

“He was fasting and almost lost consciousness while stopping at the traffic light, so they made him lie down and raised his legs and gave him something to eat until he regained consciousness.

“It was before iftar so he broke his fast, but safety comes first.”.

Even though Ms Al Buraiki does not have a lot of free time on her hands, she said she was keen on taking part every year.

“I am a single mother and I have a full time job as an academic advisor and I have my family who were always complaining about my absence during iftar time,” she said, “but then they understood that I am doing this from the heart and it is very important for me to commit to it.”

“Now they tell me ‘finish quickly so you can catch rest of iftar with us’.”

Her 13-year-old daughter is also following on her footsteps.

The complimentary iftar boxes are given out at eight main junctions across Abu Dhabi, and across the other emirates.

Updated: May 9, 2019 02:24 PM

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