More than 300 people came to Lincoln’s first Ramadan market on March 13. The market focused on helping Muslims prepare for Ramadan and the Lincoln community to learn more about the holy month, said Saja Kinani, owner of Saja Craft and creator of the market.
Ramadan is a period of fasting and prayer that brings together the family. These markets are common in the Middle East because they help people prepare for the month, said Kinani.
“Saja came to me and said, ‘Kelly, it would be really great to have a Ramadan market. Why does nobody do that here?'” said Kelly Ross, founder and director of Echo Collective. “I thought, ‘Why doesn’t anyone do it here?’ I said, ‘Let’s do it.'”
Echo Collective is a nonprofit based at Turbine Flats in Lincoln. They focus on helping immigrant and refugee women gain skills that will help them open businesses and create connections in the community.
“Refugee and immigrant women are the most underestimated, underserved and unappreciated members of our community,” Ross said.
Kinani has been in the United States for eight years and in Nebraska for two with her husband and sons. She creates wood-burned art. Kinani first became interested in this craft because she wanted to send a bookmark to her mom, who lives in the Middle East. However, the business she wanted to buy from did not ship overseas. Kinani said she spent the next year learning the craft and eventually opened her store. She burns designs on variousfea objects like spoons, wine openers and decorations.
Ross said she helped Kinani with the logistics of the market, but Kinani did most of the organizing. They created a graphic for the event in both Arabic and English and sent it to various Muslim groups on social media to spread the word.
Kinani designed the market to engage the entire family, Ross said. When guests first entered the market, they could get a “Ramadan Passport” and collect marks at different booths. If all the squares were marked off, they received a lottery ticket at the end to earn a chance at a prize. Vendors sold decorations, perfume, food, art and books. There was also an area for children to play and color.
Ross and Kinani said they hope to host a Ramadan market again next year but on an even bigger scale.
“When we hold this event next year, I hope more people come, but more people come that have never talked to someone of the Muslim faith before, that have no idea what Ramadan is, or maybe is a little nervous to show up because they do not know what to expect,” Ross said. “You are welcome here. You will have a great time.”