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 slew 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 which 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 ablution 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 there informally placed it in the thousands. It’s expected, however, that the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque iftar will get busier and busier as Ramadan progress. 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."