Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque distributes 30,000 iftar meals daily at 10 worker accommodations

More than 425 staff members work together to deliver hot meals before sunset

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre has been distributing 30,000 iftar meals every day at 10 worker accommodations across Abu Dhabi since Ramadan began.

Meals are prepared at Erth Abu Dhabi hotel, close to the mosque.

Before the pandemic hit, the mosque grounds would be full of people from all walks of life on a Ramadan evening. But that has changed in the past couple of years as the mosque has been delivering meals to workers' accommodations.

The 9,000 square-metre kitchen at Erth Abu Dhabi hotel is where all the action happens. Since 2004, it has served more than 15 million iftar meals. This year, the centre cooks more than 30,000 iftar meals every day and delivers them to different locations across Abu Dhabi.

The planning started two months before the holy month.

“We do the tasting and decide the menu. We agree on how the food should be presented and what kind of spices we could add,” said Aztaj Eddoukani, senior director of culinary operations at Erth Abu Dhabi.

“We talk to our suppliers and make sure they have the right and enough ingredients for the entire month.”

On the day The National visited, the kitchen was preparing marinated roasted chicken, biryani rice, vegetable salona (stew), and salad.

More than 425 staff members, including chefs, stewards and drivers, raced against time to deliver 30,000 meals before sunset.

The preparation starts at 5am. The chefs cook 15,000kg of chicken, 4,000kg of rice, 6,000kg of vegetables and 230kg of spices.

“We have different sections in the kitchen. One is for cutting and preparing vegetables for salad and salona,” Mr Eddoukani said.

“We also have a hot kitchen where we prepare spices and cook rice. We have about 14 ovens where we can put 500 portions of chicken at a time. We usually prepare 850 portions of chicken in an hour.”

Around noon, the meals are put inside warming cabinets at 80°C until they are ready for distribution.

The boxes are then loaded onto 13 trucks that set out in different directions. The staff hand out the meal boxes to workers living in 10 locations, including Mafraq, Hameem and Al Raha Village.

“For locations that are far from us such as Hameem, we transport the meals in hot cabinets and package them after reaching the workers' accommodation. This is done so that the meals are hot when served,” Mr Eddoukani said.

“We serve people of all faiths and backgrounds. Non-Muslims can receive the boxes way before iftar time.”

When the call to prayer is heard, they end their fast at their residences, away from gatherings.

This year, the mosque has resumed welcoming worshippers for Taraweeh and Tahajjud prayers, after the National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority relaxed Covid-19 rules during the holy month.

A dedicated task force works round the clock to ensure the mosque is ready for worshippers.

Updated: April 22, 2022, 1:05 PM