Around the world: Islamic Center's 20th annual International Festival celebrates food, culture

·4 min read

Sep. 17—Think of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo's International Festival as an up-close encounter with the rich cultures of Islam.

"It's one of our most important events because it really gives the community the opportunity to come and meet us," said Nadia Ashraf-Moghal, a member of the Islamic Center and volunteer for the annual festival. "That's what we really want.

IF YOU GO:

What: International Festival

When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, 25877 Scheider Rd., Perrysburg

Admission: Free; parking is $5

Information: icgt.org

"A lot of people from the greater community have never met a Muslim. All they know about a Muslim is what they hear or see on the news," she continued. "It's a great opportunity for them to meet us and realize that we're not all from one area. For example, a very small percentage of Muslims are actually Arab, and when you come to this event you see that."

The International Festival returns for its 20th year on Saturday and Sunday, looking much like it has in past years, with the exception of some safety precautions such as social distancing and mask-wearing: Expect a variety of children's activities, a shopping bazaar, mosque tours, and more between 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

And, of course, there's the food — one the biggest draws to the festival.

Ahmad Taouil, president of the Islamic Center, said there will be dishes representing several countries including Lebanon, Palestine, Brazil, and Pakistan, to name a few.

Ms. Ashraf-Moghal facilitates the Pakistani booth.

"The booth represents Pakistan, India, and Kashmir," she said. "We're going to have food from Pakistan and India. We're going to be offering chicken biryani, tandoori chicken, and samosas that will be potato-filled. We'll have a variety of raita, and we'll also be serving mango ice cream and yogurt lassi, which is like a yogurt shake. We're also offering Kashmir Chai and dishes from Kashmir."

Mr. Taouil said it's a pleasure to bring the festival back this year after the unexpected cancellation in 2020.

"Unfortunately because of the pandemic, it was not possible to have an event like this at the large scale we have. It was a disappointment to the community, but we all understood the reasoning. The safety of our community has always been our top priority, so we canceled it last year with the hopes to be able to resume this year, and thankfully we are," he said.

Admission to this year's festival is free, and parking is $5.

Mr. Taouil said there will be protective measures in place for booth volunteers, including more spacing than usual.

"We're taking all the necessary safety precautions and still offering all the fun activities and great assortments of food we've always had. We're very happy that we have a supportive community that's been willing to pitch in and help us put this together," Mr. Taouil said.

Mr. Taouil said the annual event has quite an impact on the greater Toledo community.

"It's an opportunity for everyone to come out and learn about the community that makes up the Islamic Center. It's a chance to take tours of the center. People are always curious about what's in the big gold building," he said.

He added that the event highlights the center's diverse community.

"People get to enjoy the many cultures that represent this community. What's unique about the festival is that it features over 20 different cultures in comparison to some of the local festivals that focus on one group. This is a great opportunity to showcase our diversity," he said.

In addition to the food, Mr. Taouil emphasized that there are activities for all ages.

"What makes this festival enjoyable is the food that comes from all these different cultures represented. We have over 100 different styles of food from different countries around the world. We're representing 28 different countries and ethnic foods available through them. We also have activities for the kids, including camel rides, petting zoos, bouncy houses. We have tours and multicultural performances. There are activities for ages two to 92," he said.

There's also the shopping bazaar, including a booth for ethnic clothing, Ms. Ashraf-Moghal said.

"We sell gently used clothing because many times these outfits are custom made from abroad. We may wear them one or two times at a party or wedding and we don't want to repeat the outfits," she said. "All of the clothes are clean and all of the proceeds go to the Islamic Center."

Contact Bri'on Whiteside at: bwhiteside@thebla­de.com.

First Published September 17, 2021, 8:00am

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