Hosting Iftar for workers and residents during the holy month of Ramadan is usual for mosques and charity associations. The faithfuls end their fast together at several tents across the UAE, where meals are distributed free of cost.

As always, this year too, hundreds of residents have volunteered to provide as well as serve Iftar meals at tents across the country. The preparation process starts after Zuhr prayers at 3pm, and the meals are served until 8 pm, before the faithful congregate for Isha and Taraweeh prayers.

To get a closer look at what goes behind the organising of these Iftar meals, Khaleej Times visited an Iftar tent at Rolla Street in Sharjah, where the meals are served by the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC). Over 25 volunteers get together to serve food for more than 1,500 residents from the nearby areas. There are two tents that accommodate about 1,000 people, and more than 500 food packets are distributed to nearby homes and shops.

The Iftar package here consists fruits, juice, water and rice-based dishes like biryani or fried rice. One of the volunteers, Mujeeb, has been assigned to oversee the entire operations at the tents.

He is one of the earliest to reach the spot (at 3pm). Their first task is to clean the tent area. “We source our fresh supplies from Al Awir Fruit Market. As soon as we receive it, we wash the fruits thoroughly,” explained Mujeeb.

The fruits are cut into portion sizes by a chef's assistant. “The fruit is cut and then packed in plastic bags for distribution,” he added.

The cooked meals are supplied by restaurants in large vessels and it arrives by 3.30pm. Volunteers then put them in individual paper container and keep them in rows in the dining area. Residents usually start coming to the tent by 5.30pm.

Pointing to the quality of the food, a volunteer at the tent said that each and every item checked for quality before it is served.

Mujeeb then explained to us the rules and regulations stipulated by the authorities for setting up Iftar tents.

KMCC first set up the Iftar tents in 2019, but due to the pandemic, tents were not allowed to operate due to Covid-19 safety measures.

On March 14, the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) announced that permits were mandatory for setting up Iftar tents. Permissions had to be sought from Emirates Red Crescent (ERC). The location of the tents and the capacity was decided by authorities in each Emirate.

The tents have to well lit and cooled, as specified by the Labour Standards Development Authority, Sharjah and the Emirates red Crescent Society.

Hundreds of residents line-up in a queue at about 5.30pm, and after reciting Adhkaars and prayers, they enter the tents. A volunteer is designated to keep a maintain Covid-19 protocols and check body temperature, before people as allowed to enter the tent.

Once resident are seated, they are given their food packets. Speeches and sermons are delivered in the tent for people to understand the purpose behind fasting, and how one should spend their day. A talk is given on Covid-19 protocols, while a scholar delivers a sermon, ahead of the Maghrib call to prayers.

After Iftar is over, the volunteers get together again for the cleaning-up process. “The first task is to clean the tents. Our volunteers collect the waste and pack it for disposal,” Mujeeb said.

The tents are also vacuum cleaned and sanitised after the clean-up operations. The tents are also inspected by the officials for safety and first aid.

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