UAE shoppers queue up for last-minute Ramadan staples
Customers thronged supermarkets to buy staples for the holy month, with many making extra effort to ensure their first Iftar becomes memorable.
Roads were not the only places crowded with the weekend rush – supermarkets were clogged with shopping carts full of food as residents waited in long queues to shop before the start of Ramadan.
Some shoppers estimated that the queues at supermarkets on Thursday were four times longer than usual.
In Sharjah, Emirati Ahmed Al Hamadi said his two overflowing shopping carts would cost him at least Dh2,500.
“The first day of Ramadan is when all my brothers and sisters come over for iftar at my home,” the 46-year-old said. “It’s going to be a huge feast, and I’m here going through the shopping list prepared by my wife.”
He had two cartons of cooking oil and packs of rice filling one of the several carts he was guiding through the aisles of Sharjah Cooperative Society.
“This month, with all the iftar invitations at my home, it will be a miracle if I don’t spend less than Dh15,000 on food alone,” Mr Al Hamadi said.
In most of the store’s aisles, staff dragged heavy carts to stock the shelves with oil, juices, sugar and other household items.
“It is still early. We are on notice that tonight will be a busy one and we need to keep the shelves stacked,” a 23-year-old employee said.
Egyptian Hasan Mansoor stood near the meat section with his three-year-old daughter, Nora, competing for space in a trolley full of Ramadan staples.
“We bought our essential needs for the first week of Ramadan last week. I’m here today to buy fresh chicken, meat and some vegetables,” said the 31-year-old sales executive.
“Ramadan rush is something I don’t look forward to. It takes ages waiting in line at the cashier, as most people here are buying large quantities.”
Rania Abdullah, a 29-year-old Syrian mother of two, bought as much as she could to avoid long queues while fasting during the holy month.
“I can’t shop while fasting. It’s exhausting,” she said. “I bought items worth Dh2,752 that will last through at least half of Ramadan. If I need more, I’ll send my husband to do the shopping.”
One cashier, 31, stood outside the co-op, drinking a bottle of cold water while on his break.
“It has been a long shift so far and the queues are not getting any shorter,” he said. “It will be a busy weekend at the co-op as people will be flocking in to get their needs for Ramadan.”
In Abu Dhabi, shoppers flooded the aisles of LuLu hypermarket in Khalidiyah Mall as early as noon.
“Usually I finish the shopping days or a week before Ramadan because I want to avoid exactly this,” said Emirati Mohammed Al Mansouri. “Look around. Do you usually see people with more than one trolley?
“Also, even in the bigger supermarkets, you’d be surprised how they sometimes run out of products.”
Certain Ramadan staples such as Vimto, a beverage syrup, have run out at supermarkets in the past, leading some to set quotas on how much one can buy.
Mr Al Mansouri said that they had their biggest spread of food on the first day of the holy month.
“We really cook a lot because there’s a little bit of celebration,” he said. “Also, the first day is always the most difficult, so you feel the hungriest you will all month, probably.”
He spent Dh1,420 for a family of six and knows he will have to shop again.
“Usually every week I go, but in Ramadan there’s always sweets or certain things that are needed, so sometimes I make two trips a week,” he said.
Ali Ahmed, a Jordanian who has lived in the UAE for 12 years and was shopping at Carrefour, said the families must strike a balance when shopping.
“Aside from not wanting the produce to go bad, all markets will have Ramadan sales, so you want to get there at the right time to take advantage,” he said.
He usually shops in the morning to avoid the crowds, but this year, he had no option but to go in the afternoon.
“Honestly, it feels too hectic. I am even forgetting my shopping list because there are too many people here,” he said.
“I think I learnt my lesson for next year – at least one week before, or I’ll ask my wife to do the shopping.”
Updated: May 25, 2017 04:00 AM