Dubai businesswoman feeds hundreds of workers in Jebel Ali each Ramadan night

Siama Qadar, with the help of family and friends, distributes 1,300 iftar boxes outside a mosque in the emirate's industrial area

An entrepreneur in Dubai has teamed up with friends and family to feed hundreds of people for iftar each night during Ramadan.

Siama Qadar and her fellow volunteers distribute the boxes outside a mosque in Jebel Ali Industrial Area 1 every day during the holy month.

The meals, which each cost Dh10 ($2.72), consist of a double portion of chicken biryani with a piece of fruit, dates, laban and water. On Wednesday night the team also handed out 500 Qurans.

Quote
The workers really need it and they really appreciate it
Siama Qadar

The British entrepreneur, who owns a fashion technology business, started the tradition after arriving in the UAE from the UK in 2014.

"As a Muslim, we have to give back as the five pillars of Islam," she said.

"The community has helped me. It’s given me my education, my work. So it’s time I need to start giving back.

"The workers really need it and they really appreciate it."

In the beginning, about 800 people would turn up each night but that number has grown to 1,300.

She funds the meals with about 20 family and friends.

Siama Qadar has organised free meals for workers in Jebel Ali since 2014. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“When I first came to Dubai in 2014, it wasn’t Ramadan. It was May and I used to do distributions in worker accommodation from the back of my car," she said.

“I first started off in International City and then moved into Al Quoz but realised there were a lot of people covering Al Quoz, so I then went searching for other places.

“Jebel Ali Industrial site was one of those, a faraway place in 2014 that nobody really knew of.”

Ms Qadar searched for a small caterer and found a tiny kitchen on the border of Sharjah and Al Qusais owned by a worker.

She began distributing iftar meals that year and continued to do so until the pandemic put an end to it in 2020.

This is the first year the tradition has returned since the pandemic began. She still works with the same caterer.

“It’s revitalised and been born again,” she said.

“I don’t know if the other mosques are doing their iftars again. Everyone is congregating here. It’s massive. They wait for us. We arrive at 5.30pm and the workers start arriving at 4.30pm.

“They know the system. They know the drill. They know where to sit. So they give us no headaches, no stress.

“We are serving them. So it’s nice to be serving them than them serving us.”

Updated: April 28, 2022, 5:11 AM
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