- Hosting 100,000 people on streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopians claim they broke world record earlier set in Egypt
ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopian Muslims on Tuesday rolled 30,000 meters of plastic sheet to host 100,000 people to break the fast on the streets of capital Addis Ababa, breaking the world record.
The gathering was also organized to show defiance to Egypt’s stance against the building of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
“There were for sure more than 100,000 participants according to our calculation. We rolled out at least 30,000 meters of plastic carpet, where people sat,” said Semhar Tekle, one of the organizers.
Earlier Egypt was holding the record for arranging street iftar for 7,000 people during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Feisel Kemal, head of Halal Promotion, which organized the event said besides exhibiting unity and solidarity, Ethiopian Muslims gave a symbolic answer to Egyptians by breaking their record.
“This event is an indirect response to Egypt. As we break the record of street iftar, we will also break the record by building the greatest dam in Africa,” he said.
The GERD, on the Blue Nile River, is under construction since 2011. Ethiopia filled the reservoir with 4.9 billion cubic meters of water last year and is planning to fill another 13.5 billion cubic meters in July and August during the rainy season.
Islamic Affairs Supreme Council President Mufti Haji Umer Idris, City Deputy Mayor Jantrar Abay along with church leaders also graced the event.
People sat on a five-kilometer stretch from Mexico square to Bambi in the heart of the city holding the nation’s tricolor flags of green, gold, and red.
Mufti Haji Idris told the gathering that the event was aimed to show the willingness of all Ethiopians to stand in unity.
He said maintenance of peace was vital for the common good, national unity, and progress.
Yonatan Tesfaye, deputy director at media authority in Ethiopia on his social media page said: “Today with the iftar, we’ve sent the Egyptians a message.”
Broke the world record
“We just broke a world record, with the street iftar,” Natnael Mekonen, another prominent social media activist tweeted.
Ahead of the event, young people across different faiths cleaned the streets to prepare them for the mass Iftar, the first of its kind to be held in the capital Addis Ababa.
The Addis Ababa administration had earlier disallowed organizers to conduct the iftar party at such a heavy scale. The move triggered protests on Sunday. But soon it reversed the decision.
“It should be noted how the Muslim community has expressed its grievances politely and peacefully. On behalf of myself and the city administration, I apologize for what happened yesterday [Sunday],” Adanech Abebe, deputy mayor of the city said on her official Facebook page.
Bedru Hussein, a religious teacher and public figure among Ethiopian Muslims told the Anadolu Agency that banning iftar was a grave mistake.
“We were fighting such kind of oppressions during the former governments, now with all these positive moves, it was very saddening to see Muslims deprived of public space for a one-day street iftar,” he said.
Ahmedin Jebel, another prominent leader of the Muslim community in Ethiopia, thanked the city administration for their swift correction move.
Ethiopia prides itself to be the nation that hosted the first migration of Muslims in the 7th century. It had given refuge to the Companions of the Prophet when they suffered persecution at the hands of the tribesmen in the city of Makkah in Saudi Arabia.
By Addis Getachew and Sadik Kedir/AA