By now, it’s slightly redundant to point out that Dubai is known the world over for its sprawling city landscape, sky-scraping architecture and awe-inspiring views. So why start a piece with that hook?
Well, beyond the sprawling city landscape etcetera etcetera, lies an unrelenting construction industry that makes everything in this city a possibility, thanks to the tens of thousands of workers it employs. During Ramadan, and as the temperatures continue to rise, many of these workers are on-site during the day and put their bodies under intense physical and psychological pressure to continue working for as long as the sun is in the sky (and sometimes long after that).
Filling The Blues is a charitable initiative launched by the founder of modern Pakistani eatery Moti Roti, Tahir Shah. It’s a a month-long programme throughout Ramadan that recruits the assistance of Dubai restaurants in providing a filling, nutritious iftar meal for construction workers in the city.
Since Ramadan is a month for generosity, contemplation and selflessness, Filling The Blues is a supremely worthwhile cause. We head down to a construction site in Al Barsha where the Filling The Blues team are accompanied by the staff from Freedom Pizza, the firm known for it’s use of organic, hormone-free ingredients. Along with pizza for each worker, fresh water, fruit and snacks are also ready to go as clocking off time rapidly approaches and labourers begin filing out after a long day on the job.
It’s important to emphasise at this point that we have joined Filling The Blues on the second day of its month-long campaign, with food on the first night having been provided by Moti Roti. The restaurant will also be catering for the final night on Monday June 26.
Freedom Pizza has donated roughly 100 personal-sized pizzas, and following the success of the first night, at which more than 100 workers were fed, it soon becomes apparent that we might have underestimated just how popular Filling The Blues would be. By the second night, some 30 more labourers than the previous have made their way on site, and provisions quickly begin to run low.
Off we run for an emergency supply of snacks at a local minimart, heading back to restock the tables as a snaking queue refuses to shorten.
Shortly after, we’re out of pizza, too, and more volunteers are required to run over to a local takeaway across the road for another emergency supply of meals. But there is to be no man left behind, and every single person who joins the queue leaves the site with a hot meal.
During the event, a tenth-grade class from Dubai American Academy deliver a welcome contribution: an SUV-load of tinned goods that it takes nearly ten people to unload. After the influx of food, the Filling The Blues team explain that donations such as these also mean workers can have suhoor ahead of a day on site. More donations like this will arrive throughout the month, and they could not be more welcome.
While this is undoubtedly a fantastic cause, there’s always more that can be done, and the hope is that future years will see the scheme expand to multiple sites across the city. Greater partnerships with local restaurants, and more volunteers, are needed to make this happen. But having been to the site and helped Filling The Blues in any way we could, it’s clear that awareness will be the greatest enabler in helping spread this initiative.
The hotel, apartment complex or office block in which you’re reading this was probably built by the guys that Filling The Blues helps. Simply donating your time – it only takes an hour to organise and distribute food to every worker – is enough to give something back to the guys who build this city.
If you do want to go a step further, which we’d encourage, get in touch with the organisers directly at www.motiroti.me/fillingtheblues. We can’t think of many better ways to spend an hour.
Daily, arrive around 4.45pm. Until Mon June 26. Al Barsha, www.motiroti.me/fillingtheblues.
Four more charitable initiatives throughout Ramadan
BurJuman “Share and Care”
BurJuman has partnered with Emirates Red Crescent for a huge clothing donation drive. A number of donation points have been set up in the mall and collected items will be given to the charity to be distributed across the country to families in need. Clear out your wardrobe or hit the shops to help.
BurJuman, Bur Dubai (04 352 0222).
Careem Donation Pledge
Every day throughout Ramadan, ride-hailing app Careem is promising to match every donation made to the UNHCR – a UN initiative pledging to aid refugees in need across the region. Donate however much you’d like in-app and Careem will match it. That’s a promise.
Donate to a Sharing Fridge
Participate in the city-wide Ramadan Sharing Fridges scheme. The programme started spontaneously last year, aided by the power of social media, and now has more than 80 fridges across the city to which you can donate water, fresh fruit, dried goods and more.
Various locations across the city.
Random Acts of Kindness
Property developer Emaar is dropping 1,000 mystery boxes across Dubai throughout Ramadan, encouraging citizens to participate in its social media campaign #BuildingCommunities. Each box will include a Dhs100 voucher, with instructions on how to aid those in need.