As the sun sets, thou­sands en­joy if­tar in the com­pany of their broth­ers

The National - News - - RAMADAN 1439 - JOHN DENNEHY

Thou­sands of peo­ple came to­gether at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque on Thurs­day to break their first fast of Ra­madan.

Peo­ple streamed into the mosque grounds from early af­ter­noon, in­clud­ing labour­ers, taxi driv­ers and fam­i­lies and a sense of sol­i­dar­ity and friend­ship filled the air.

Nine air-con­di­tioned tents for those break­ing their fast had been erected and by 6.30pm all were full. There were so many peo­ple ar­riv­ing that they were di­rected onto the ar­ti­fi­cial grass that had been laid down ear­lier in the af­ter­noon by a small army of work­ers.

By 7pm, the mid-May heat had given way to a mel­low warmth and the mosque was bathed in a light blue colour as part of its lu­nar light­ing.

Then the can­non sounded, mark­ing maghrib prayers and an end to the fast. Ev­ery­one had been given a box pre­pared by the Armed Forces Of­fi­cers Club that in­cluded dates, fruit juice, wa­ter, rice, veg­eta­bles and a piece of fruit. It was free of charge.

Edrissa Yawi is a taxi driver from Uganda. “When you look at the mosque, it’s very beau­ti­ful. It’s al­most as if God is sleep­ing,” said Mr Yawi, who was break­ing his fast at the mosque for the sec­ond year in a row.

“There are lots of fa­cil­i­ties and park­ing. And it is a very spe­cial place.”

Mahjur Ra­haman, from Bangladesh, re­cently moved to Abu Dhabi from Shar­jah.

“This is my first time here,” he said. For Mr Ra­haman, the first fast of Ra­madan had not been too tax­ing. “It’s not so hot to­day so it was OK.”

These sen­ti­ments were shared by Mo­hammed Sul­tan who was head­ing for ablu­tions be­fore break­ing his fast. “It was very easy to fast be­cause of the weather. No prob­lem,” said Mr Sul­tan, who is from Hy­der­abad in In­dia.

Of­fi­cial fig­ures for how many at­tended on Thurs­day were not avail­able but one worker in­for­mally placed it in the thou­sands.

It’s ex­pected, how­ever, that the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque if­tar will get busier and busier as Ra­madan pro­gresses. By 9pm ev­ery­one is fin­ished and the grounds, where if­tar is served, are ready for the next day.

Syed Farhaq from Karachi in Pak­istan was break­ing his fast at the mosque for the first time.

“This is a beau­ti­ful mosque,” he said as he walked to­wards the if­tar tents.

“Af­ter the mosques in Makkah and Mad­i­nah, it is the next most beau­ti­ful and the ar­chi­tec­ture is re­ally awe­some.”

Mr Farhaq works from Dubai and was do­ing busi­ness in Abu Dhabi for the day. When asked about how hard the first day of fast­ing was, he ex­pressed sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments.

“The fast­ing was not hard. I smoke 20 cig­a­rettes a day usu­ally and to­day I didn’t once think about smok­ing,” he said.

“Fast­ing is not just about food and wa­ter but how you act to­wards other peo­ple.”

When you look at the mosque, it’s very beau­ti­ful. It’s al­most as if God is sleep­ing EDRISSA YAWI Ugan­dan taxi driver

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