This Sunday, May 5, marks the beginning of Ramadan – the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when those who adhere to the faith don’t let anything pass their lips from sun-up to sun-down. Lakemba, in south-west Sydney, is one of the few places in Australia where Muslims constitute more than half of the population. During the days of Ramadan, its streets are fairly quiet. But at night it springs to life, with thousands of people heading to Haldon Street and Railway Parade for a Ramadan feast.
More than 30,000 people visit this street party on Friday and Saturday nights, and 10,000 during the week. People eat from sunset until 3am, with Muslims from every part of the world – Indonesia, Burma, Pakistan, India, Lebanon, Syria and more – cooking up their own iftar (fast-breaking meal). But it’s not just people of Muslim faith who visit. Everyone’s welcome.
This year, attendees can expect to snack on camel burgers, which are popular in Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, murtabak (iron-grilled roti filled with curried meat, egg, coriander and onion), a rainbow of curries, an Arabic sesame bun called kaak, and knafeh, a syrup-drenched pastry filled with soft cheese. Intense Lebanese coffee is a must to keep you going until suhoor (the pre-dawn meal), which many people also eat at the market.
The stalls start setting up at sunset, but the festival doesn’t really get going until around 10pm, or 1am on weekends.
Ramadan Nights is on from May 5 until June 6 on Haldon Street and Railway Parade in Lakemba.