The dastarkhwan―traditional dining mats―laid out for the iftar meal ran for 1.6km, hugging the curves of Srinagar's scenic Dal Lake. And, around 3,000 people took their seats even before muezzins announced iftar at around 7pm; around 1,000 were orphans of Kashmir's long drawn conflict. The grand iftar of July 11 was organised by LoudBeetle.in, an event management company, and was supported by Jammu and Kashmir Tourism and 16 private sponsors.
Seated on Kashmiri carpets, the two rows of rozaydaars (those who observe the Ramadan fast) broke the fast with water, juice, dates, fruits and chicken biryani. Children dug in before the ritual end of the fast. Many shikara boatmen came ashore to participate. The bubbling fountains, illuminated houseboats and the lake itself provided the setting.
“It is good that orphans were invited to this event,” said Bilkees, a student. “We came specially because they were here.” Jameel Ahmed, a rozaydaar, said the invitation to the orphans affirmed the “message that everybody is the same in Allah's sight”.
Many rozaydaars felt that such events were welcome in Kashmir, where there is very little socialising beyond what happens at weddings and during festivals. Socialising is an idea alien to a generation born and raised in conflict, a rozaydaar said. Many attended simply to be part of a historic event.
“We invited everyone to breakfast with us. We invited orphaned children to make them part of society,” said Ahmed Khan, CEO, LoudBeetle.in. Sarmad Hafeez, vice chairman, Lake and Waterways Development Authority, said that such positive events gave a fillip to tourism.
World's longest: 4.3km. Alexandria, Egypt.
Asia's longest: 1.003km. Sharjah, UAE.
The Srinagar iftar is awaiting official confirmation.