Lakemba Ramadan Nights food market attracts more than 1 million visitors
30 Apr 2022
During the holy month, Haldon Street at dusk is a sight to behold.
The Ramadan Nights festival has transformed the strip in Lakemba, in Sydney’s south-west.
And this year, record numbers of people have flocked to the area to take part in the event, which celebrates Islam and Arab culture.
Organisers say more than 1 million people have attended over the past 30 days — that’s four times more than when it was last held in 2019.
This weekend marks the end of Ramadan, and the final night of the festival will be held on Sunday.
The event began with a single barbecue and some camel burgers in 2012.(Supplied: Canterbury Bankstown Council)
Mohammad Ibrahim is one of 61 stallholders on the Haldon Street strip.
It was his first time selling his falafel sandwiches during festivities and said the crowds exceeded his expectations.
“They’ve come from all around Sydney, Wollongong, northern beaches, I even had some people from Dubbo and Wagga, I think they were lost I don’t know how they got here,” he said.
The dusk-until-dawn celebration draws people from a wide variety of backgrounds, who celebrate more than just food.
“I have Muslim friends and when they mention Ramadan or Eid, I don’t have a full idea of what they’re talking about sometimes,” one festival-goer said.
“Coming out here gives you a better sense of what they are referring to or what they’re talking about in terms of the community aspect of it.”
Canterbury Bankstown Council are determined to make the festival “bigger and better” next year.(Supplied: Canterbury Bankstown Council)
The event, which began with a single barbecue and some camel burgers in 2012, has grown into the City of Canterbury Bankstown’s largest drawcard.
The council took over management of the festival in 2017.
Almost 60 per cent of Lakemba’s residents identify as Muslim, according to the 2016 Census, but it’s outsiders that are making up the bulk of guests.
“We’re still crunching the numbers on this one but estimate well over 50 per cent [of visitors are not local],” a council spokeswoman said.
“We also know people are coming from across Sydney, intrastate, interstate, and up to 10 per cent from overseas.”
Food plays a major role in the event.(Supplied: Canterbury Bankstown Council)
More than 50 per cent of attendees are not local, the council says.(Supplied: Canterbury Bankstown Council)
The massive crowds have led to some criticisms that the event has become too big.
However, Canterbury Bankstown Mayor Khal Asfour said he believed the event struck the right balance.
“I’m absolutely blown away by the growth this year,” Mr Asfour said.
“We will be doing a review after this year’s event with the police, with the stakeholders to make sure we make it safe, bigger and better next year.”
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