With illegals gone, iftar meals go begging in mosques
The exodus of large numbers of illegal expatriate workers following the labor correction campaign by the Ministries of Labor and Interior has resulted in a drop in the number of attendees at iftar meals at mosques and temporary tents especially erected for the purpose in major cities across the Kingdom.
The first day of Ramadan witnessed a drastic shortfall of attendees at mosques and iftar tents. Catering trade sources also said that there is a decline in their orders for iftar meals.
Many Asian and African day laborers in the Kingdom look forward to the holy month of Ramadan when besides the spiritual rejuvenation, they are able to avail themselves of free evening meals at the numerous mosques and temporary tents in Jeddah and other major cities especially put up for the purpose.
Many also take away food parcels with them for suhoor (the meal before the dawn prayer) as philanthropists ensure that food is supplied in large quantities.
“We used to order 400 meal packs for iftar every year, but after noting the fall in headcount in the mosque, we have ordered only 250 meal packs this Ramadan,” said a worker who is associated with a mosque near Umm Al-Qura Street in Jeddah.
He told Arab News that he could mark a visible difference from past years when low-paid workers who form a large portion of the gathering for iftar meals flocked to the mosques in large numbers.
“However, there are fewer attendees this year owing to the correction campaign which has forced many to leave the Kingdom,” he said.
Khalil Abdullah, a Palestinian expatriate who has been volunteering for a mosque to distribute iftar meals for a long time also echoed similar views.
A general fall in attendees was noted in all the mosques located in the Industrial area in South Jeddah, sources told Arab News.
Even the up and coming neighborhood of Hamdania in East Jeddah, which is currently a hub of construction activities, have witnessed a significant drop in the turnout for iftar meals, according to restaurants that offer catering services.
Mohammed Asif who works in the food catering and delivery services in the Hamdania area said that the number of orders has declined this Ramadan compared to the previous year.
Other towns also reported a decline in the number of people turning up for the iftar meals.
“There are fewer numbers of people at iftar meals at the Absiya Mosque which is the main venue for such iftar gatherings in Khamis Mushayt,” Mohammed Riyaz, a resident of Khamis Mushayt told Arab News by telephone.
He said that on the first day of the holy month he could not find any iftar tent which is a regular feature of Ramadan in the industrial area of Khamis Mushayt.
Noushad, a social worker in Alkhobar, said: “There was a fall of attendees by over 50 percent on the first day of iftar in the iftar tent in the Subega locality, which is a hub for iftar gatherings in Alkhobar.”
However, he said that he had heard through friends that the Khalil Mosque in Al-Ummal area near the King Fahad road in Dammam was crowded with people.
The iftar meals are a government initiative coordinated by private and government bodies to ease the holy month of fasting for day laborers in the Kingdom.