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.”