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Imagine; after a long day at work or university you’re sat under the stars with nothing but a tent above your head, an evening summer breeze blowing past whilst you take a sip of water and break bread with the stranger next to you. The call to prayer is sung, and everyone is stood up together, the banker, the doctor, the student, the teacher, the homeless, the rich, the poor, all side by side praying under the night sky, followed by a meal together in which you are sat amongst non Muslims and Muslims alike. Ramadan isn’t so much about what you eat, but it’s how you eat, something truly felt when attending the Ramadan Tent Project (RTP).
The RTP is an idea developed by Omar Salha, who originally decided to hold a free open Iftar for students and colleagues who were away from their families. Being a student at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the time, it began near their campus in central London and a tent seemed like the best way to hold an Iftar in an open area with the ability to accommodate large numbers.
Quickly realising its potential as a great way to raise awareness about Ramadan and its importance to Muslims, it has also become a platform to connect Muslims and non Muslims through the sharing of a meal together. As one RTP representative that I spoke to states, “Ramadan is a time for service and charity, it’s an opportunity to reach out to the broader community, feed the homeless, and show others how Muslims live their faith through good deeds”. Two years on, it’s expanded to two more cities in the UK (Manchester and Plymouth) and across the world to Turkey and Zambia, and relocated to a larger area in London, further down the road in Malet Street Gardens.
It is an interesting and popular concept with up to 400 people attending each night and has fed approximately 10,000 people since it began. Essentially a non-profit organisation, it relies on donations from the public to fund the iftars, which is why you won’t find the same meal being served any two days in succession. Any extra food is donated to local homeless shelters after the evening ends.
Images by Rooful Ali