From a festival in Trafalgar Square organised by the flamboyant London mayor, to ‘supercar’ spotting outside Harrods, there’s plenty to do in the UK capital over Eid.
Many events are open to Arab visitors over summer, when tourist numbers from the region traditionally spike. “London is enjoying another bumper year for tourists and we are delighted to welcome visitors from across the Arab world, who make an important contribution to the tourism economy,” a spokesperson for the Mayor of London told Al Arabiya News.
Here’s Al Arabiya’s lowdown on the top events and attractions during the end-of-Ramadan festival.
1. Eid Festival, Trafalgar Square, 25 July
Thousands of Londoners and visitors to the UK are expected to descend on Trafalgar Square for the annual Eid Festival, now in its tenth year. The free event, from 12 noon until 6pm, is being held on July 25, the Saturday after Eid al-Fitr weekend. Expect exhibitions, calligraphy displays and Egyptian, Lebanese and Moroccan cuisine. Performers include the Egyptian alternative band Massar Egbari, and Karama, a London-based band led by oud player Soufian Saihi. There will also be an appearance by writer Hajera Memon, who created the world’s first pop-up and play book telling a story from the Quran. The Eid Festival is organised by the office of Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, and supported by Lebara Mobile, Zee TV and the Embassy of the State of Qatar. “I urge Londoners and tourists alike to come down to Trafalgar Square to experience the many flavours, colours and culture of Islamic world,” Johnson said in a statement. “Eid Mubarak!”
2. London Central Mosque
The London Central Mosque, on the border of Regents Park, expects a rush of people attending this Eid, which is expected to fall on either Friday or Saturday. “There will be five Eid prayers on the day of Eid, from 8am every hour until 12 noon and we expect over 45,000 people to attend and pray on that morning,” a spokesman for the mosque told Al Arabiya News. There will also be activities for children, with free balloons and sweets for the kids. The mosque has been a focal point over Ramadan, distributing about 2000 free hot meals a day, and having held a multi-faith iftar with leaders from the Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Sikh communities.
3. Muslim History Tours
London has a wealth of Arab and Muslim connections and one tour operator is promising an Eid special for those wanting to see the sights. Muslim History Tours is holding two Eid tours, at 10.30 on July 25 and 26, leaving from Parliament Square and Temple Underground station respectively. “Find out where Arabic was taught 400 years ago and discover the Arabic origins of Trafalgar Square along with other locations,” AbdulMaalik Tailor, the founder and organiser of the tours, told Al Arabiya News. “Britain is abound with extraordinary stories of Muslim connections, contributions and shared hidden history.” Tickets for the tours, which are conducted in English, are priced from £6-12 ($9-$19) must be purchased in advance.
4. Eid in the Park
The seventh Eid in the Park event in Redbridge, north-east London, is due to be held on the first day of Eid al-Fitr – whenever that may fall – at the Valentines Park in Ilford. The event aims to revive the tradition of having the Eid ceremony outdoors, and also includes exhibitions on Islam and health. Last year approximately 10,000 people attended the event, including many from the local community.
5. Eid Family Fun Day
A smaller community event is due to be held on Sunday 26th July in Harrow, north-west London, at the Nower Hill High School. The Eid event is due to include games, a bake sale and women's beauty area.
Dishoom is a chain of three London eateries inspired by old Irani cafes of Mumbai, India. It is holding an Eid celebration at The Crossing, next door to its King’s Cross branch, on Sunday 19 July. Expect to be welcomed with a mug of ‘chai’ and Indian soft drinks, with calligraphy and henna artists also present. The free event also includes art exhibitions, and is open to all. The Dishoom café next door will be serving an Eid special dish of Raan Biryani from 19th-25th July.
7. Edgware Road
Edgware Road, London’s so-called ‘Little Arabia’, promises to be especially lively over Eid – with the Lebanese restaurants and shisha bars even more buzzing than usual. Most outlets are open late, some 24-hour, so it’s a perfect place for lunch, dinner, late-night snack – or just to soak up the atmosphere.
8. Dar Marrakesh
Talking of Edgware Road, the restaurant and shisha bar Dar Marrakesh – one of the street’s best-known – will be open until 2am on Friday and Saturday of Eid. It promises a DJ and belly dancers, along with the usual array of shisha and Arabic food. Sister branch Dar Marrakesh 2, in Kensal Road in West London, is open until 4am.
9. Shop ‘til you drop
The annual ‘Ramadan rush’ sees thousands of Arab visitors to London, especially over the Eid holiday. The Westfield shopping centre saw average spending from Middle East visitors hit £714 last summer, an 18 percent increase on the previous year, according to media reports. The west London shopping centre – which houses luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Versace – offers Arabic-speaking concierges over the Ramadan and Eid periods. In north London, the Brent Cross shopping centre is holding Eid Celebrations on August 9, set to be opened by Keith Vaz MP. It is set to include a children’s performance by a theatre group, craft activities and traditional sweets from Muslim cultures around the world.
10. ‘Supercar’ spotting
For some, Eid in London means one thing: Supercar spotting. The annual parade of high-octane vehicles – many flown from the Gulf to the UK especially for the summer season – traditionally attracts dozens of automobile fanatics, the so-called ‘Carparrazzi’. A black-and-gold Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport, worth about $1.7 million, along with a mirror-coated Porsche and silver Lamborghini Aventador were just some of the luxurious Arab-owned motors spotted in London last year. Hang around outside The Park Tower Knightsbridge hotel, The Dorchester or the Harrods department store this weekend and you’re bound to spot some of the world’s most expensive cars.