On Sunday, I was invited to take part in the Ramadan Tent Project at the Malet Street Gardens in the heart of central London. This experience was both humbling and refreshing. I arrived home that night with an enormous sense of pride and inspiration for the people who brought this wonderful initiative to life.
What is Ramadan Tent? The website explains it well:
Ramadan Tent Project is an award winning community-led initiative [which] invites the homeless and the public at large, Muslims and non-Muslims, to break fast together at dusk during the holy month of Ramadan each year.
Creating a Ramadan atmosphere in the heart of London, The Ramadan Tent Project delivers a platform that fulfils both the objectives of catering for people in need and promoting greater cross-community cohesion and understanding.
We arrived as a group of six; two unrelated sets of three cousins. This led to some amusingly ill-planned attempts at explaining how we were all related (a common ice-breaker question) and confused lots of people, apparently including my sister, who at one point declared me her aunt’s daughter.
We met two lovely older brothers from a larger group, who were passing around their delicious homemade Pakistani food and after the main meal, even produced some cake. Another Iraqi couple, on finding out I was Lebanese, insisted on giving me very specific directions to a place “opposite Sainsbury’s” that I am supposed to visit on Friday or Saturday. Can’t say I’m entirely clear on the final destination – was it an Eid festival? A community centre? A restaurant? Who knows. They were so kind, lively and fun to talk to. At the end of the event, our group left together, but not before well wishes, farewells and even some phone numbers were exchanged.
To me, this event embodies all that is good. In a glorious celebration of our differences, everyone gathers around sharing food, stories and laughter. The festive atmosphere encourages people to open their hearts and minds, and find similarities with those they may never otherwise speak to. This is community cohesion at its finest; an almost utopian scenario, where strangers from completely different backgrounds and generations engage with one another in interfaith dialogue. Oh! And it fosters a 100% recycling waste management policy.
Without opportunities like these, one might never reasses their preconceptions of cultures and religions they have not experienced. This is about understanding one another, and essentially subverting the stereotypes that the media often impose on us.
I will most certainly be returning next Ramadan, inviting muslim and non-muslim friends alike to take part, and feel grateful to have been a part of such a remarkable project.
The Ramadan Tent Project came to exist as a student-led project founded my muslims and non-muslims at SOAS, University of London. It relies on volunteers and donations, and is now present in Turkey, Zambia, USA and Canada.
“We aim to motivate and support the upcoming generations of Ramadan Tent Project leaders to take ownership and spread the community spirit to all corners of the globe.”
Young people can easily slip into disillusionment with politics and social issues. We must remember that we have more power than we think. We are the next generation of social change, and together, we can make a difference.