Off to the side and away from the sea of people that flooded the Hamilton Convention Centre for Eid al-Fitr, 16-year-old Daoui Abouchere was all smiles following the morning’s prayer.
“It’s revitalizing knowing that there are other people with you,” said Abouchere, celebrating the end of Ramadan with what organizers estimated to be between 15,000 and 20,000 Muslims in Hamilton’s core. “You see people you haven’t seen in a long time and everyone just connects.”
Abouchere came to Tuesday morning’s prayer service at the convention centre and visited the bazaar set up in front of City Hall with more than 40 members of her family.
“People are coming in from out of town. I know of people coming in from Brampton, Ottawa and from the States,” said Kamran Bhatti, spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Hamilton. “There’s 30,000 Muslims in Hamilton, maybe 15,000 went somewhere else, and maybe 5,000 came in. There’s a tremendous migration of people throughout the Eid.”
Bhatti says it’s the largest crowd they’ve had for the Eid in Hamilton. As many as 12,000 came out to celebrate last year’s event held in the same location. This year, some found themselves praying in the halls when the main rooms filled up.
The Ramadan fast stretches 30 days and is based on a lunar calendar.
Bhatti said his body is used to fasting, but he’s also ready to break his fast.
“My co-workers, they knew they weren’t going to book any lunches with me for 30 days. I’ve got two lunches booked tomorrow, and three on Thursday,” Bhatti adds with a laugh.
Hussein Hamdani, spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Greater Hamilton, says the celebration isn’t just about eating, it’s about spending time with family and friends who’ve shared the same struggle for the past month.
“It’s a very community-focused event,” Hamdani says as he’s continuously greeted by friends and family leaving the second prayer. “You put on all the weight that you’ve lost in this last month.”
Muslims under the age of 12 don’t typically participate in the fast, but there was plenty for kids to do at the bazaar in front of City Hall. Food vendors, a bouncy castle, clowns, games and even a drum circle took over the Main Street entrance.
Rodinah Ali, 10, came with her family of eight for the morning’s prayer and went straight to the bazaar afterwards.
“My favourite part is when we jump in the tent,” she said.
Rodinah’s older sister Rufayda, 18, participated in the fast and said she told her mom the night before about how much she would eat after prayers.
However, when the teenager arrived at the celebration, she found herself with a different focus — finding her friends first. Then food.