Sydney’s Ramadan Nights Festival in Lakemba continues again this year to showcase Ramadan atmosphere in Australia with more than 150 stalls displaying a variety of delicious foods from multicultural cuisines during the entire fasting month of Ramadan attracting crowds of almost one million people from all backgrounds and faiths.

The founder and head of the Ramadan Nights Festival, Canterbury Bankstown Councilor Khodr Saleh, believes that this year’s festival in 2023 was distinguished by the large turnout of visitors from across various Australian states. He expects more than one and a half million people to attend it this year.

“The idea of establishing the event began 14 years ago in 2009 when I held the position of deputy mayor of Canterbury Council. The main motivation for the idea was to respond to the Islamophobia at the time, which was focusing on the Lakemba area in Sydney, which is inhabited by a large proportion of Muslims of mainly Arab origin. It was described as an area housing extremism, violence and terrorism where the main Haldon Street in Lakemba during the nights of Ramadan seemed almost empty, except for regular Police patrols and a few people”, Mr Saleh recalled.

The festival began as a humble and joint project in cooperation between the Council and the Chamber of Commerce in Lakemba, with a budget not exceeding $20,000 and attended by a few hundred people. Today the festival’s budget exceeds more than one million dollars, and attracts more than a million people.

Throughout the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, it has turned into one of the largest Ramadan activities in Australia, and its news is covered by media outlets from Australia and across the world.

“This festival is characterised by the presence of official Australian political figures and members of diplomatic missions. It includes the presence of different cuisines, including Lebanese, Syrian, Bangladeshi, Indian, and other cuisines, and camel meat hamburger, which is one of its most popular attractions. In addition, there are many sweets and juices, including the famous Nabulsi and Jerusalemite Kunafa,” Mr Saleh added.

Haldon Street in Lakemba is generally crowded from sunset until a couple hours before the break of dawn, with large numbers of stalls from different countries selling various foods such as shawarma, cakes, koshari, kunafa, ice cream, and many other dishes.

In response to a question about how to control these huge crowds that attend the festival during the nights of Ramadan and maintain an atmosphere of security in the areat, as well as car parking procedures and cleanliness Clr Saleh explained that there are a large number of surveillance cameras and security control measures managed through an integrated security operations room on the night to ensure the safety of the festival visitors. Dozens of security guards and volunteers work on the night, along with free shuttle bus services to transport visitors from the various nearby train stations to the festival venue.

In regards to future plans to develop the festival further, Clr Saleh referred to plans and studies carried out by the festival management to expand the geographical scope of the festival which currently serves as a distinctive phenomenon of  Multicultural Australia.