After Asr prayers, thousands of
citizens and residents of Madinah wheel food carts into the
Prophet's Mosque to serve iftar meals to millions of
worshippers who gather in the sprawling prayer complex during
Madinah: Serving iftar
meals to help visitors to the Prophet’s Mosque break their fast is
part of the rich tradition of the people of Madinah that dates
back to the period of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
They lay out hundreds of thousands
of iftar meals on sufras (plastic table spreads) to feed visitors
to the mosque every evening throughout the holy month. These
sufras, which make the longest dining table on the face of the
earth, in a way reflect the immense hospitality of the people of
Tasting this hospitality provides an
inexplicable experience for almost all Umrah pilgrims and visitors
who come from all over the world to visit the holy mosque during
Speaking to Arab News, a number of
pilgrims shared their amazing experience of having an iftar meal
at one of these sufras.
Khaled Hafeezuddin, a pilgrim from
Bangladesh, says that his pilgrimage was the realization of a long
cherished dream to perform Umrah and visit the two holy mosques.
“I worked hard for a long period of
time to save the money to meet the cost of performing the
pilgrimage in the holy month of Ramadan. It was a thrilling
experience for me to watch the massive lines of iftar meals laid
out inside the Prophet’s Mosque and its courtyards,” he said while
praising the much commendable hospitality of the Madinah
Muhammad Hamdi, an Egyptian pilgrim,
also has no words to express his feelings about the vast
facilities arranged for pilgrims at the holy mosque, especially
“I thank Custodian of the Two Holy
Mosques King Abdullah and his government for making available all
these facilities and services for the pilgrims and visitors to the
The marvelous sunshades that blend
architecturally into the design of the historic mosque are of a
great help for pilgrims as they protect them from the scorching
sun,” he said.
There are a total of 250 large
sunshades, each of which covers an area of more than 600 square
meters and offers up to 800 pilgrims protection from the sun and
heat. These sunshades provide a shaded area of 156,000 square
There are also 500 huge fans that
sprinkle cold water to provide comfort to the faithful while the
mercury is soaring.
Many pilgrims commended the
hospitality of Madinah people who start laying out sufras
immediately after the Asr prayers. The iftar meals consist of the
finest varieties of Madinah dates, juices, water, yoghurt and
fruits such as oranges and bananas. They said that it is quite
amazing for them to watch locals of all ages, including children,
young men and the elderly, compete with each other in serving the
The local residents make
preparations well in advance before the advent of the fasting
month so meals can be distributed without any disruption.
On the first day of Ramadan, they
start preparations immediately after Dhuhr prayers and reserve
space to spread out the sufras. There are specific areas that
Madinah families have been using for decades to spread their
“I have been laying down my sufras
at this spot for 10 years,” said Ali Juma, a Madinah resident. “On
the first day of Ramadan, we all arrive to confirm the actual
space for spreading out the sheets. If nobody else has occupied
the place, then we continue using it throughout the month. If we
do not arrive at the right time, it is taken by those who come
early,” he said, adding that this practice of reserving space was
done in coordination with the General Presidency for the Affairs
of the Two Holy Mosques.
“We are also meeting some specific
conditions set by the presidency with regard to organizing iftar
meals,” he added.
Usually, the presidency allows only
dates, water, yoghurt, coffee and Al-Shiraik bread inside the
mosque while fruits and juices as well as dishes made of rice,
meat and chicken are allowed in the courtyards of the mosque. The
cost for iftar meals ranges from SR2,000 to SR5,000.
The hundreds of thousands of the
faithful sitting along two sides of the sufras spread out inside
the mosque as well as on the vast sprawling courtyards of the
mosque provide an amazing view.
People of various backgrounds,
including Arab and non-Arab, white and black, are sitting
patiently in front of the sufras, reflecting the unique principles
of Islam’s universal brotherhood, unity and hospitality. They
enjoy the spirit of hospitality inherited by the people of Madinah
from their ancestors by feeding hundreds of thousands of pilgrims
and visitors from various corners of the world.
The presidency has mobilized more
than 5,000 men and women, including cleaning workers, to make
available the best possible services for the pilgrims as well as
to keep the holy mosque and its courtyards neat and tidy. It has
also stocked more than 290 tons of Zamzam water to meet the demand
during the holy month.
This article appeared
in Saudi Arabia's leading English daily
Arab News on
August 19, 2011.