Deira's Narrow Alleys Become Huge Ramadan Iftar Eating Areas

  • March 29, 2023
Deira's Narrow Alleys Become Huge Ramadan Iftar Eating Areas

As the clock chimes four in the afternoon, the narrow lanes surrounding the Ahmed Abdullah Lootah mosque in Naif, Deira, metamorphose into a vast dining area, preparing to serve Iftar to Ramadan's devout. After a day of fasting from dawn to dusk, tens of thousands of residents who live and work in Deira, the commercial centre of Dubai, partake in the communal meal.

Under the presidency of PSM Habeebullah Khan, the Iman Cultural Centre organises the opulent feast, and the cuisine is donated by Dubai's renowned industrialist Ali Rashid Lootha. This Iftar meal has been organised by the foundation for the past 47 years.

Every day at approximately 3 p.m., more than fifty volunteers from the cultural centre and other organisations prepare the feast. They begin by laying down tarpaulin tarps in the over a kilometre of alleyways. The cloth is then covered with more than 800 panels of parallel plastic sheets. This is completed within an hour.

Daily at approximately 6 p.m., thousands of Deira residents and employees make their way to the mosque to break their fast. Haseeb Yasin, Secretary of the Iman Cultural Centre, remarked, "We have people from various countries participating in the feast. They love our traditional Kanjhi (rice porridge), which we prepare in Tamil Nadu. Many request an extra serving of the delicacy. Tourists passing by also taste it and ask for the recipe."

The devout, regardless of their culture or nationality, recline side-by-side and raise their palms to the Almighty before breaking their fast. They pray for their families and for the UAE's authorities.

When the Iftar canon of the Dubai Police is discharged or when the Adhan is recited, the devout break their fast with dates and water. In addition, they enjoy the tasty Kanjhi and refreshments provided by the good Samaritans.

After breaking their fast, devotees hurry to mosques for the maghrib congregational prayer.

In a Hadith narrated by Zayd ibn Khalid, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is quoted as saying, "Whoever helps a fasting person break his fast will receive the same reward as him, without detracting from the fasting person's reward."


The volunteers begin preparing for the feast well in advance. "We procure basic materials such as fresh meat, rice, and lentils at night, following the Taraweeh prayers. These commodities are then transported to our Sonapur kitchen. Our caterers begin preparations in batches at 3 a.m. About eight hours are required to produce two thousand kilogrammes of Kanjhi, according to Yasin.

"At noon, the volunteer packs the prepared meal into a plastic container, which is then transported to Deira," Yasin explained.

Sameer Ahamed Sirajudeen, secretary of the cultural center, would wait and be prepared to receive the meals and administers the entire operation with the assistance of volunteers. "At times, local residents and workers assist us in serving the food. Even foreigners helped us coordinate the feast, as Sirajuddin explained.

Additionally, police officers from the Naif Police Station have volunteered to distribute Iftar and tidy.


The true challenge for volunteers, however, is to sanitise the entire alley in just 20 minutes. "When people depart the mosque after the maghrib prayer, the entire area is spotless. We have placed trash cans every 30 metres in order to rapidly clear these lanes, said Sirajuddin.

This entire process is repeated the following day, from gathering basic materials, fruits, and beverages to preparing, distributing, and cleansing the lanes, until the sighting of the new moon of Eid al-Fitr.


Mohammed Salem, who owns a perfume shop nearby and has been attending this Iftar gathering for the past 20 years, is one of the many beneficiaries. "Since my first Ramadan in the UAE, I've never had to fret about my Iftar. Since several years, thousands of individuals have been appreciative of this act. And the cuisine they provide is both tasty and nutritious," Salem said.

"We earn approximately Dh50 per day, and they allow us to save Dh10 that we would otherwise spend on Iftar," said Junaid, a cart operator in the area.

"The prayers of these five thousand people who quench their thirst and hunger here are surely a blessing for the organizers," added Junaid.