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Thousands gather for iftar at Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Abu Dhabi: Thousands of people from various nationalities ended their fast together at the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque on the first day of Ramadan in Abu Dhabi on Thursday evening. Iftar meals will be served throughout Ramadan at the iconic mosque.

Iftar meals have been served at the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque since 2004, with 11 fully air-conditioned tents on hand this year, each able to accommodate 1,500 guests.

Bachir Abdul Karim, 35, from India, was attending his first iftar at the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque after hearing many good things about it. He told Gulf News: "this is my first time that I have come here, I was always hearing about it from the media so today I decided to come and end my fast in the mosque. From what I see it is very good you have many people all coming together to end their fast, and this is a good example of Ramadan. The mosque is also beautiful and the scenery here is very nice so it's a good experience."

Noumeer Rahim, 20, also from India was visiting the mosque for the first time to have iftar. "It is a very good that they are opening the mosque to serve iftar for many people, men, women, and children, it is very good for Abu Dhabi. There are people from all countries here, India, Pakistan, and I also saw some people from England as well so I think that it's great that people from all different countries can come together."

There were also first-time visitors from Uganda. Musisi Lawrence, 26, accompanied by two friends also from Uganda, spoke positively about the multi-cultural experience and ethnic blend saying, "we have always been hearing about the Shaikh Zayed Mosque around the world so we wanted to see it for ourselves during Ramadan, and from what we see it is a very nice place, and everything is run in a very organised and professional way. I have met people from many different nationalities since I have been here, and from what I have seen it's not about what nation or colour you are, we're all one people here together in peace, everybody is welcome here."

His friend Abdul Kaddu, 28, shared similar sentiments. "This is the first time that I have come here and I love it, everybody here is so peaceful, nobody minds where you are from, or whether you are black or whatever colour you are, they don't mind. It doesn't even matter if you are a Christian or from another religion, all people are welcome here. I met some Arabs and they were very welcoming to me, greeting me and we talked with each other in a very friendly way, so there is a good connection with everybody here."

Gavin Ntare, 23, said, "it's a very nice clean area, so peaceful, everybody is so friendly with you and they don't discriminate against you."

The meals are prepared and cooked daily by the Armed Forces Officers Club in Abu Dhabi before being delivered to the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Around 20,000 fresh meal packages are made every day.

The management of the iftar is run by the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque in partnership with several other government entities to ensure everything runs smoothly. Other government departments that help with the programme include the Ministry of Interior, Department of Civil Defence, Abu Dhabi Police, Department of Transport, The Red Crescent Authority, and the Waste Management Center in Abu Dhabi.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jun 20, 2015
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