Monday,16 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)
Monday,16 July, 2018
Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Alexandria iftar breaks world record

Alexandria has entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s longest iftar table, reports Ameera Fouad

Al-Ahram Weekly

Last Friday, the Mediterranean city of Alexandria saw the longest-ever line of tables set for the evening iftar meal that breaks the daily fast in Ramadan, entering the Guinness Book of World Records.

Hundreds of tables were set out overlooking the seashore, chairs were lined up, colourful tablecloths were prepared and people came from various parts of Alexandria for the iftar meal. Some came from the outskirts of the city, while others came from nearby buildings and had only had to cross the street to reach the city’s famous Corniche.

It was a traditional Ramadan setting with its many characteristic features — gatherings of families and friends, smiles on people’s faces, the light-hearted play of children and the voices of chanters of the Qur’an before the evening prayer.

Many people were reading the Qur’an as children flew kites over the sea, waiting for the moment to come when the fast would be broken and they would end their 16-hour daily fast.

Photographers were present along the four-km-long iftar “table”, and TV presenters were racing for the best interviews and screenshots. Cameras were rolling along the Corniche, and a representative of the Guinness Book of World Records could be seen at various points along the table, evaluating the line and checking that everyone was eating.

The goal was finally achieved, and Alexandria broke the previous Italian world record for an iftar table of 2,000 metres (6,561 feet), set by the Centro Studi San Marco and L’Evento in Lucca, Italy, on 27 June 2014. Alexandria’s new record is 4,303 metres, allowing it to enter the Guinness Book of World Records.

The event was organised by a group of young people called the Radioactive Team and was sponsored by the Alexandria governorate and the Ministry of Youth and Sport. The table ran the length of the Corniche from the Tharwat district of Alexandria to the Sidi Gaber district.

There were some hiccups, however. The event started out as a great success with people reserving their seats at the table just after the Al-Asr prayer, despite the still burning sun. After a while, however, some organisational shortcomings were evident as the number of people arriving increased.

“We didn’t expect such a large number of people. Most of them had not made prior registrations, but still wanted to get seated. There were also a few arguments as some people who had made reservations didn’t find places to sit, while others who were seated had not made reservations but did not want to leave their places,” Mario Girgis, head of the media team for Stranka, one of the organiser groups, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

“We made it a priority to serve those who had reserved seats, while distributing packages of food to others. We also tried our best to get extra meals from local restaurants. Of course, we did not expect such a huge event to come off entirely smoothly. We knew that people would welcome the whole idea, but we also knew that problems would be inevitable given the logistics involved,” he added.

Due to the late arrival of some meals from the sponsoring restaurants in one district, scores of hungry people rushed to the trucks delivering the meals. In the crush, some people did not get their meals while others may have got more than their fair share. In other districts, however, people sat happily enjoying their meals.

“I am very happy I came today. It is my first time having iftar on the Corniche, and I feel overwhelmed by the fact that I am playing a role in breaking a Guinness world record,” Magdy Shehata, a graduate student, said. “I also made a reservation in advance. But I can see that many people here did not make reservations, creating problems for the organisers.”

Although Alexandria Governor Hani Al-Messiri was happy that the event took place, the huge number of people who rushed forward to welcome him when he arrived in his official car clearly overwhelmed him, sending him temporarily away.

“I do apologise to the people who didn’t get to eat during the iftar. The statistics show that an estimated one million Alexandrians attended the event — a huge number in comparison to what was expected,” Al-Messiri told the press.

“I hope next year the organisation will be better, as this event is very likely to be repeated from this year onwards,” he added.

As the sun dipped beneath the horizon, people who had not received their meals began complaining. There were scenes of people queueing up alongside loaded trucks in an attempt to hurry up the distribution of meals. There were also a few clashes with the organisers.

“Please take a picture of me sitting empty-handed,” Abdel-Baset, 66, told Al-Ahram Weekly. “All these people are waiting for their meal boxes. The prayer has taken place, and we have nothing to eat. When are we going to eat, I wonder?”

“If they had told us to come over with plates and to bring our own food, we could have done so very easily,” Naeema Mohamed, a woman in her fifties, told the Weekly. “But we have been sitting here for three hours and no organiser has showed up. I don’t think anyone will care whether we eat or not.”

Manal Ahmed, a teacher, had a better experience, and commented, “The food is delicious and the boxes that have been distributed are really good. There is even konafa as a dessert. We only took two meals although we are a family of six. We are trying to save the meals so others can eat as well.”

“Some people sitting next to me hadn’t got their food. So I shared mine with them. Ramadan is all about sharing and helping others. Even if the organisers cannot supply all the attendees, we must help and support one another. It is Ramadan,” said Hassan Mohamed, a student at the Faculty of Science in Alexandria.

At the end of the day, there were mixed opinions. Some said the event was a huge success, while others, particularly those who were kept waiting for their food, said it was chaotic and poorly organised.

Regardless, the fact remains that Alexandria achieved the record for the longest line of iftar tables this Ramadan, earning a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

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