It’s Ramadan. The days are long, and they are hot (often over 40C/140F). A lot of impoverished blue-collar workers are toiling in these inhospitable conditions, and a lot of those men are fasting for the holy month of Ramadan. Fasting during this period doesn’t just mean going without food during daylight hours. It also means going without water.
If you’re in the mood for a fun experiment, try not drinking any water for the next 16-17 hours. For real. Give it a red-hot go and see how you manage. I’m not ashamed to say I can’t do it. I get seriously irritable, light-headed and I can’t concentrate on the simplest of tasks. But let’s say you did OK. Let’s up the ante. Next, try it whilst sitting outside in the searing sun with no shade for relief. Still no problem? OK, let’s throw some manual labour into the equation. It starts getting a bit tricky here. Now do it for a whole month.
One of the wonderful aspects of the Ramadan fasting tradition is Iftar – the breaking of the fast. Every night, throughout the city, restaurants put on lavish buffet Iftars to reward the fasters for their discipline during the day. Table upon mountainously laden table, literally groans under the weight of all the food on offer (what they do with the copious amounts of left-overs is the topic of another rant). It’s a pity that the labourers and street workers of Dubai (and neighbouring emirates) could never even dream of participating in such feasts. Usually the best they can hope for to break their fast is some plain rice and maybe some lentils. Their usual fare.
So, when we raised a pretty large sum of money in April we decided to keep a fair amount of it so that we could arrange some pretty yummy meals for 450 of these hardworking, unfortunate men to help break their difficult Ramadan fast. With Roshni’s help and with the help of the amazing Green Palace Restaurant in Karama we put together 450 meals comprising delicious chicken biryani, some dates, a samosa, water, a tub of yoghurt and a nice dessert. Truly a feast.
One of the best things about this particular handout, and what makes it different to all the others we’ve done before, is that when we arrived at the restaurant the food packages weren’t ready (there had been a misunderstanding about the time we needed them). We usually just turn up, load the cars and take off to where we distribute the meals. This time we got stuck in, we got involved in the process. For about half an hour we crammed into the pretty small restaurant and we rolled up our sleeves and we helped the restaurant staff put the packages together. And, boy oh boy, was it HOT! At one point I was sweating so much, one of the men silently handed me a box of tissues (which I took with much gratitude). We shared a moment and it was one of mutual respect. I’m pretty sure they’ve never had a western chick in there packing biryanis into plastic bags before. And whilst I’ve always respected this restaurant for helping us with our vision of feeding men who need it, I gained an even higher, newfound, respect for the staff for all the hard work that goes into the packaging. It was eye-opening, adrenalising and exciting to actually not just GIVE, but to DO.
Another difference was that we went to a labour camp area about half an hour drive from Dubai. A lot of people like to contribute to the same camps in Dubai, because it’s convenient. So the ones that are further afield tend to miss out. We weren’t afraid to make the trek, to ensure that some neglected folks got to share some of the spoils of people’s generosity.
I hope you all enjoy checking out the photos below. For those of you who didn’t contribute, perhaps you’ll be inspired to throw a few bucks in this direction next time we do a large collection. And for those of you who did give money, once more, thank you.
Note: 450 is about the maximum number of meals that can be made at once so we actually still have 194 meals left over from the collection that Roshni will distribute over the course of Ramadan, as she’s doing handouts every single day. She’s truly an amazing woman.