Ramadan nights: the sun that did not set in Lakemba

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Despite the cancellation of the traditional Ramadan Nights markets because of COVID-19 restrictions, the annual street bazaar went ahead. The Ramadan night markets returned to their casual roots this year, with fewer stalls running.

“The markets remind us of the strong sense of community we have within this area,” said South-West Sydney local Fatima Faroukh.

“Although there has been no council involvement, [they] continued to run because of this community spirit,” continues Fatima.

Haldon Street, Lakemba has become popular for its vibrant night markets held during Ramadan, attracting people from all backgrounds to enjoy different food such as knafeh and burgers late into the night.

Community members leaving Lakemba mosque following night prayers to attend Ramadan Nights.
(Image: Hayat Yassine)

 

Traditional Ramadan drinks Sahlab being served to customers. This stall is known for its comedic interaction with customers.
(Image: Hayat Yassine)

 

This year, many were disappointed with the cancellation of the formal markets, as they are significant to South-West Sydney’s Islamic population.

The Canterbury-Bankstown Council acknowledged the cancellation on its website saying, “Due to current NSW public health orders and restrictions the decision has been made by Council that the formal Ramadan Nights event will not be held in 2021.”

The absence of council involvement this year had sparked some public concern across social media platforms, particularly Twitter.

“How are the clubs open but the Ramadan Nights event in Lakemba [is] cancelled,” said Twitter user @BazlaaAli

 

 

However, the markets were not completely abandoned. Councillor Rachelle Harika believes the use of the word ‘cancelled’ by media outlets was therefore problematic.

“Restaurants and food outlets along Haldon street…are still legally allowed to operate at night, as long as they have COVID Safety Plans,” says Rachelle.

“Although the council were not formally involved this year, I noticed council staff patrolling the street the night we attended, as well as some police presence too. The large crowds were concerning amidst the current health climate, but it was expected,” said Fatima.

“Despite there not being as many stalls and provisions this year, the energy remains,” said Fatima.

“The support shown by the community is incredible, especially the social media attention,” continues Fatima.

Social media platforms, such as TikTok, have promoted the Lakemba Ramadan markets this year. Videos of cheesy knafeh, camel burgers and Turkish sand coffee were posted by those who attended, attracting thousands of viewers.

eir social media accounts to welcome visitors. One stall even offered free chips on a stick to anyone who followed them on Instagram.

Such efforts to keep the markets alive and safe have been supported by the council, despite not coordinating the event.

 

Traffic control sign at the entrance of Haldon Street.
(Image: Hayat Yassine)

 

Nevertheless, some believe the council’s usual organisation was beneficial for the safety and organisation of the markets.

“When the council is involved, it’s a lot…neater and cleaner,” says Yassr Elyatim to The Guardian, an employee of the Ramadan Camels stall.

Visitor Stella Ballenden agreed, praising previous traffic management efforts.

With 20.8% of the council area population being of Islamic faith, it is no surprise the popular markets were still reawakened for this holy month.

Although numbers were not as high as previous years, crowds of at least a few hundred flocked to Haldon Street to break their fast or just appreciate the food reminiscent of many Middle Eastern countries.

Vibrant chatter and music lit up the street once again with scenes of people sitting on crates, drinking coffee, and playing cards. The footpaths were overwhelmed by families and friends, people having to squeeze past each other to wait in long lines.

Afandi café serving cheesy knafeh and sparklers to long lines.
(Images: Hayat Yassine)

 

“It did not disappoint,” said Fatima. “The culture, and the people themselves, are what truly make it.”

“Hopefully, we can enjoy the council-held markets at their full capacity next year without restrictions,” Fatima continues.

 

Crowds surrounding Ramadan Camels – a stall popular for selling camel burgers and fresh juice.
(Image: Hayat Yassine)

 

Staff cooking dozens of burger patties to please large crowds.
(Image: Hayat Yassine)

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