Ramadan 2021: meet the Dubai mother who feeds 500 people every day during the holy month

Mahnaz Faquih teams up with local charities to distribute food parcels at worker accommodation in Al Quoz

Mahnaz Faquih has helped donate tens of thousands of iftar boxes to the needy in the past 20 years in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Mahnaz Faquih has helped donate tens of thousands of iftar boxes to the needy in the past 20 years in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Dubai resident Mahnaz Faquih, 51, feeds 500 needy people every day during Ramadan.

She started when she moved to Dubai from India in 2002, distributing food during Ramadan to those around her, including the security guard in her building.

In 2018, thanks to the help of her friends and community members, she delivered 500 iftar boxes a day to workers and unemployed people during the holy month.

The initiative has grown so big. It started with a wish to treat others to some good food or a box of biryani

Mahnaz Faquih

That trend has continued every year since.

This year, because of Covid-19 restrictions on sharing and distributing food, Ms Faquih joined up with local charities to distribute food parcels at worker accommodation in Al Quoz.

In 2020, she worked with Sahana, a Sri Lankan Welfare Association in the UAE, to help provide meals to those who lost their jobs during the pandemic.

"I moved to the UAE from India where I lived in a joint family of 10 people and there was a lot of Ramadan fervour," Ms Faquih said.

"For me, Ramadan meant being involved in charity.

"My parents always encouraged me to help others and I wanted to keep that tradition alive.

"I started sending iftar boxes of fruit, laban or juice to my local mosque," she said.

Mahnaz Faquih with her daughter Alina and son Mikhail. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Mahnaz Faquih with her daughter Alina and son Mikhail. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Ms Faquih, an interior designer, said she ensured her children understood the importance of giving while realising their own privilege.

"The initiative has grown so big. It started with a wish to treat others to some good food or a box of biryani," Ms Faquih said.

"Before the pandemic, I asked my children to give away the food packets so that it touched their hearts.

"I wanted them to have the consciousness that others are needy and they are privileged.

"My parents always gave away money or gifts through us, and I wanted my children to think about others."

Her daughter, Alina Shaikh, 16, has been helping her mother since she was six and her son, Mikhail Shaikh, 12, also helps to distribute boxes.

“When we were little, we used to bring food and juices to workers every single day during Ramadan,” Alina said.

"We feel happy and grateful that we are lucky enough to help others.

"It’s such an amazing and rewarding feeling.

"It’s allowed us to understand how others live and empathise with them. It has helped us become humble and open-minded to people from different walks of life," she said.

Mikhail also enjoyed being able to help others.

“In the past, we helped in packing the food boxes, but most of the time we handed out the iftar meals to people,” he said.

"We think that giving back is extremely important and when you have the ability to help others, why not do it?"

Ms Faquih said her friends supported her, too.

Shanu Hathiramani, an Indian from Nigeria living in Dubai, has known Ms Faquih for the past eight years and often helps her with her charitable work.

"Mahnaz is a very giving and helpful person," Ms Hathiramani said.

"In the past, we have helped feed people during Ramadan. My son also helped out with the charity work."

Iftar boxes being distributed at a workers’ accommodation in pictures

Updated: May 7, 2021 10:20 AM

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