Food for thought as shift workers forego Ramadan iftars with family

A general aerial view shows devotees gathering to eat iftar during the holy month of Ramadan, at Al-Azhar Mosque in the old Islamic area of Cairo, Egypt on May 12. (Reuters)
Updated 18 May 2019

Food for thought as shift workers forego Ramadan iftars with family

  • Rizk Ali, head of Cairo’s public transport authority, said the authority would be providing 75,000 meals a month for employees who could not get home

CAIRO: While millions of Muslims gather at home to share Ramadan iftars, for thousands of shift workers breaking their fast is not so simple.
For Hassan, head chef at one of Egypt’s famous Seekh Mashwi restaurants, working during the month of fasting is “a different kind of pleasure.”
“Despite the fatigue and exhaustion during fasting hours, God gave me the energy and patience to work in high temperatures. During Ramadan and fasting, food is in front of me, but I do not want it at all,” he said.
“I can adjust the saltiness of the meal without tasting it, just by smelling it. I have a meal with the restaurant workers after evening prayers during most of the month of Ramadan. We can only adjust our shift to eat our iftar at home once a week, but the rest of the days we are at work,” the chef added.
Fathi Shams, a baker in downtown Cairo, told Arab News: “Ramadan to us is a season. The temperature in the streets is 30 degrees, but in the bakery, it can go up to more than 60. But I must work until the fasting person has iftar, and then I can have my meal.
“The work increases massively in Ramadan, and we can never say no,” Shams added. “I go home to rest, and then I wake up to eat the suhoor meal in my house. It is the only meal I have with my family in Ramadan. After dawn prayers, I go back down to work the oven.”
Sayed Najdi, a traffic police officer from the Gamaliya district of Cairo, also finds family get-togethers during Ramadan disrupted.
“The food comes to me from the Interior Ministry every day, chicken, meat, vegetables and rice, but I definitely miss the feeling of iftar with the family,” said Najdi.
“The traffic in Ramadan is very difficult during the day, and the height of the hustle is one hour before iftar. But iftar time is simple, because most of the citizens have already arrived home and the roads are empty.”
Najdi has iftar with the family for two days during the week. “I feel happy and thankful for those two days, but when I have my iftar in the street, I feel that I am doing my duty to the people, and this is the will of God.”
Rizk Ali, head of Cairo’s public transport authority, said the authority would be providing 75,000 meals a month for employees who could not get home.
He added that the distribution of 2,500 daily meals allowed bus services to be suspended during the time of iftar.
Cairo bus driver Hassan Beshir told Arab News that he breaks his fast at the bus stop three days a week because he shares his job with another driver.
“I work during the dusk call to prayers and feel happy when I return to the bus stop without a single passenger,” he said.
“I feel happy when all the passengers are in their homes with their families.”


Syria regime forces battle militants for key town, highway

Updated 28 min 6 sec ago

Syria regime forces battle militants for key town, highway

  • The town of Khan Sheikhun lies on a key highway coveted by the regime
  • Pro-regime forces have been advancing over the past few days in a bid to encircle Khan Sheikhun

BEIRUT: Syrian pro-regime forces fought pitched battles Sunday with insurgents as they inched closer to a extremist-run town in the northwestern province of Idlib, a war monitor said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said “fierce clashes” between loyalist forces, militants and allied rebels were taking place one kilometer (0.6 miles) west of Khan Sheikhun.
The latest fighting broke out overnight Saturday to Sunday and has already killed 26 extremists and allied rebels and 11 members of the pro-regime forces, the war monitor said.
The town of Khan Sheikhun lies on a key highway coveted by the regime.
The road runs through Idlib, connecting government-held Damascus with the northern city of Aleppo, which was retaken by loyalists from rebels in December 2016.
Pro-regime forces are deployed around three kilometers (1.8 miles) from the road and have been advancing over the past few days in a bid to encircle Khan Sheikhun from the north and the west and seize the highway.
On Sunday they retook the village of Tel Al-Nar and nearby farmland northwest of Khan Sheikhun “and were moving close to the highway,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
But their advance from the east was being slowed down due to “a ferocious resistance” from militants and allied rebels.
Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) controls most of Idlib province as well as parts of the neighboring provinces of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia.
A buffer zone deal brokered by Russia and Turkey last year was supposed to protect the Idlib region’s three million inhabitants from an all-out regime offensive, but it was never fully implemented.
Regime and Russian air strikes and shelling since late April have killed more than 860 civilians, according to the Observatory, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information.
On Sunday air strikes by the Syrian regime and its ally Russia killed two people, including a child, in the south of Idlib, the Observatory said.
More than 1,370 insurgents and over 1,200 pro-regime forces have been killed since April, according to the monitor.
The violence has displaced more than 400,000 people, the United Nations says.
“Many of these people have been displaced up to five times,” the UN’s regional spokesman for the Syria crisis, David Swanson, told AFP on Saturday.
Syria’s conflict has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions at home and abroad since starting with the brutal repression of anti-regime protests in 2011.