Walking around Portobello Market yesterday, a popular tourist attraction in West London, posters of residents of Grenfell Tower, who were registered missing, hung loosely on walls and railings, smiling faces that once were in family albums and adorned walls of their homes.

It is a grim reminder of the tragedy that happened more than a week ago.

As confirmation of their deaths in the blaze trickles in, heartbreaking stories of their final hours in the inferno, which has claimed 79 lives, are also emerging.

These are families who would otherwise be busy preparing for Eid celebration. They were among those who were up for sahur in the early hours of the morning when the tower block they were living in was engulfed in flames.

Looking through the list of victims and those missing, there is no doubt that more than half of those affected by the blaze are Muslims, immigrants from Somalia, Morocco, Sudan and the Middle East.

Eid for the survivors, friends and families will be a muted affair as they are grieving for their loved ones while being shunted from one temporary accommodation to another. It is a time of uncertainty; their homes together with their belongings were destroyed.

There is no question of new clothes for the most important day in the Muslim calendar, for they had to be content with clothes taken from the mountains of clothes donated in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Food on the table, too, will be out of the question, as their temporary accommodations do not have stoves or fridges.

These are trivial things, in the scheme of things, things they cannot afford to entertain while they wait for some semblance of normality.


Flowers for victims of the Grenfell Tower blaze.

“If only we can cater food for them on Eid and make a difference during these dark hours of pain,” sighed Hairani Muhammad of Makan Café in Portobello Market, as she packed fried noodles for survivors.

Hairani, or Ani, can’t claim to know those who died in the fire or those missing.

But friends of victims and survivors, who do frequent the shop she runs with her husband Azhar, knew where to turn to in times of need.

They have heard of Ani and Azhar’s charitable nature, feeding the homeless and helping refugees.

“If only we can invite them to have food here,” she said.

There were so many things that she wished she could do, but the truth is she had done a lot
already, swiftly responding to
the appeal for help after the tragedy struck.

From day one, Ani, with her friends and team of volunteers, had been cooking and packing food for volunteers and survivors of the fire.

“We feel what happened is so close to the neighbourhood. Some customers came in with stories about people they knew who are victims of the fire.

“The only way we can help is by giving food. We started with 20 packs of food and in the evening, there were demands for more,” said Ani, who is no stranger to cooking for the homeless in London and also refugees in the Jungle of Calais in France.

“With the help of my friends and volunteers, the food packages are collected to be sent to hotels and bed and breakfast where some of the victims are placed temporarily.”

One customer of Makan Cafe who lives near the site of the fire, Food TV producer Janice Gabriel, who is also a volunteer, knew Ani would not turn her down.

“I have known Ani and of her charity work, so I knew that she could cook decent meals for these people in times of need.

“I come here to collect the food and then deliver them to the hotels.

“These are displaced people who have lost their homes and their loved ones.

“They have been moved from hotel to hotel. What Ani has done is a start on the road of recovery for them, food cooked by someone in the community to show that the community cares,” said Janice.

Yesterday, Ani and Azhar had a surprise visit from Monica Press, Labour councillor for Kensington and Chelsea who went to Makan Café to thank them for the work that they were doing.

As part of the community that they are living in, Ani and Azhar feel that it is their duty to chip in at this hour of need.

They have made a difference to the lives of the people who will hopefully regain their strength to go on.

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Hairani Muhammad, or Ani, packing food for survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire at Makan Café in London.