London, Asharq Al-Awsat—London’s world-famous Trafalgar Square was the site of an event marking the Muslim Eid Al-Fitr festival on Saturday. Thousands flocked to the square between noon and 6 pm to celebrate the end of Ramadan with oriental music and cuisine, amid exceptionally good weather.
This year’s festival, organized by the mayor of London, was distinguished by a strong presence from the UK’s Arab community. Zainab Al-Farhan Al-Imam, founder of the Women’s Growth and Success Forum and a co-organizer of the festival, told Asharq al-Awsat: “By participating in the Eid Festival we aim to show British society the richness of Arab culture and to consolidate Arab women’s presence in the cultural sphere.”
Several representatives from countries with large or majority Muslim populations participated in the celebration. They included officials from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Iraq, Morocco, Algeria, Turkey, and the UK.
Safiya Tobani, a British Muslim civil servant, said: “This celebration is one that reflects the international [character] of the city and its pluralism, as it shows the city’s keenness to share the celebrations of people of other cultures and faiths.”
“Not far from here, almost four months ago in Chinatown, my family and I attended the celebration of the Chinese new year. I also cannot forget the Persian food distributed by salesmen in Leicester square during the Nowruz [Iranian new year] celebrations,” she added.
Saad Al-Salman, a Kuwaiti vacationing in London with his family, said: “Usually, we prefer to visit tourist sites in London to spend the holiday, but this was the first time for us to come during Eid. My family and I feel pleased that there are people in a Western country who share our celebrations with us.”
The events in this year’s festival incorporated exhibitions of Arab and Asian folklore, as well as fashion shows from India, Morocco and the Gulf. As part of the festival, a photo exhibition was also organized with the aim of “reflecting the spirit of Ramadan.” With a high visitor turnout, the gallery displayed photos depicting Muslims performing their religious rituals during the holy month of Ramadan in different countries around the world.
Ahmed Al-Mahdi, a British citizen of Tunisian descent, said he was pleased with the array of cultures, cuisine and music on offer during the festival.
“This was my first time eating delicious Indian sambosek while enjoying traditional Algerian music,” he said.
The strong Arab presence at the festival was intended by the organizers to introduce British society to the unique cultures and traditions of the participating countries. One of the artists with work on display was Najat Bekki, an Iraqi who recently settled in the UK.
She told Asharq Al-Awsat her work reflected traditional Iraqi art forms, and that she aimed to represent her country as a whole, with its array of different religious, ethnic and political groups.
“My paintings express my wish that Iraq will be safe and peaceful once again. I wish my country will once again be a place where you can see a Muslim, a Christian, a Jew, an Arab and a Kurd, all in one street,” she said.