Hundreds of Asian labourers sit silently on the floor outside Dubai's Fatima Hassan Mosque in front of plates laden with fruit, pakoras and biryani as they wait patiently in the energy-sapping humidity to begin their Ramadan iftar.
Nearby, sweat-drenched volunteers hastily scoop the deep-fried vegetables and the rice-based dishes of stewed meats from huge metal urns on to plates for the last of their weary guests, as they count down the final minutes until the sun disappears from the horizon, the moment they can break their daily dawn-to-dusk fast in the Muslim holy month due to end as August closes.The mosque, situated downtown just yards from Dubai's creek - the location of the emirate's original trading hub when it was just a small trade and fishing centre - provides a free iftar for the poor every day during the holy month, cooking enough rice, mutton or chicken to feed some 1,500-1,800 workers in one sitting.The Fatima Hassan Mosque's waste bins may be empty, but Ramadan brings a huge increase in food waste across the city and the Gulf as leftovers from more lavish banquets attended by the well-to-do are thrown out in a region where soaring summer temperatures mean that fresh food goes off quickly.
"We hardly have any waste. Whatever is left over we serve to people. We call the people over and give it to them," said Nour Mohammed, a sales coordinator who volunteers to serve food.But not all iftars in Dubai are simple meals provided for the poor - many of whom are migrant workers, paid less than AED1,000 ($272) a month and often have large debts.
Dubai has transformed itself over the last 50 years into a regional business and tourism hub renowned for extravagant real estate projects, flashy living and the luxurious banquets at hotels and restaurants to accommodate the demands of wealthy consumers who want the best fresh food at their iftar feasts.The emirate boasts the world's tallest tower, man-made islands in the shape of palms visible from space, and a number of luxurious hotels - including the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab - many of which lay on massive iftars for those who can afford it.Iftars at the top end venues are often pricey, with some charging as much as AED200 ($55) per person."They see Ramadan as a possibility to squeeze a non-alcoholic consuming demographic and the economy has been slow for a while," said Mishaal al-Gergawi, a current affairs commentator in the United Arab Emirates.
Despite the hours of preparation put into the often vast displays of food, waiters at top hotels in Dubai say much of the food left over goes straight into the waste bins.
The amount of food thrown out in the emirate jumps considerably in the holy month - by as much as 20 percent according to Dubai Municipality, with most of the waste comprising rice and non-vegetable foods.
From / Arabian Business News