We were happily invited to attend iftar at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a free offering to anyone who shows up. The mosque estimates that anywhere from 10,000-15,000 people are served nightly, from all walks of life.
Our group arrived right as the sun had set, so the men were led to an outside area as the “male” tents were filled, and the women were led to the back of the women’s tent (bonus – tents were air conditioned – but the wool head scarves may not have been the best material choice to keep cool). We ate seated on the ground, shoes off, side by side with all nationalities and backgrounds.
We received a beautiful boxed hot meal and were plied with all sorts of drinks, salads and dairy on top of it. It was way too much food to finish.
While in the tent, a volunteer came up to us, noting how wonderful it was to have us (aka Westerners) eating with Muslims. They were extremely gracious and lovely to speak with, though it felt odd accepting free food when we definitely didn’t need the charity. So, while it wasn’t quite as “touristy” as we may have thought given the press it’s received, it was an unforgettable – albeit very quick – way to spend an evening.