Halal Food Fest—a place where there’s nothing but good food, full of smiles and lots of different talents and services being shared. Many attend year after year, but this was my first time. There were many different cultures, cuisines and happy smiles as children jumped on bouncy castles. Local vendors and a few that were a little far from the city commuted to the event to share their art and services with others.

Walking into the International Center there was a long line that I had to wait in. Everyone around me knew one another and were just so happy. Once I finally got to enter the grand bazaar itself, I was hit with the loud sound of joy from adults hugging each other saying salaam, to kids running around with great amazement. I too was amazed. The Halal Food Fest was grand, it was busy. It reminded me and brought that joy I feel when going to the masjid on Eid for Eid prayers. As I took it all in I found there to be so many booths back to back. I walked for a while thinking, Where should I start? Where should I start?

That’s when I found myself standing in line to get some food. Papa Catering, a family business that sells Kazakhstan Cuisine is where my stomach brought me to. Edward, a member of the family, mentions that they are not a big business but have a small location in Scarborough and deliver food to homes. One of their dishes, which I had the honor of trying, is called “The Pilaf,” a dish that is very common in Kazakh culture made with a mix of rice, beef and carrots. With every bite I took it brought warmth to the heart—or the stomach in this case. 

After the savory lunch I devoured I found myself craving something sweet. With the big crowd I was surrounded in, I end up running into Anthony Pasto and his sweet booth. He shared his story of how he started his business, HappyBeesHoney. His career as a beekeeper originated when Pasto was trying to lose weight five years ago and found out his hobby for beekeeping helped him go on this straight healthy path. Being able to sell organic honey it helped him give back to his community and provide them with something sweet but healthy made of natural ingredients.

On my way to my next booth I grabbed a good cup of coffee from Reem Ahmed, a Top 10 finalist in the fifth season of MasterChef Canada. As I continued to walk around the festival I pass by the stage where performances and events were happening at the same time for adults and children. Amin G. Aaser is the founder and managing director of Noor Kids, a publishing company that “publishes one of the worlds fastest-growing Islamic children’s book series with titles in over 250 000 homes across 25 countries.” Aaser, a master storyteller, shared one of the Islmaic children’s books from Noor Kids captivating all the young children. One of the young children I had the privilege of interviewing is a young boy named Yasin Warsame who shared his experience at the festival and described it to be “very fun and entertaining.” He said there was a lot of good food to eat, and even a magic show he enjoyed watching.

As the day went on, I found out the variety of different booths the festival had to offer, not just food. One of the services that I came across that has recently found its way to Toronto is Khalil Center, a Zakat Foundation project. Khalil Center is a wellness center that caters to helping the community phychologically and spiritually using professionals in psychology and Islam. They have a team of professional muslim therapsists and psychologists who provide counselling services to the Muslim community. They want to address mental health and help people suffering with it. With their booth they were able to showcase their service to the Muslim community. After hearing this I came to the conclusion that the Halal Food Fest had something for everyone— services for the mind, honey for the body, food for the soul and entertainment for the kids.        

With the tons of booths, MY Voice had one among them. Sania Ali, the media host of MY Voice was conducting her social experiment by interviewing the passing people at the festival. Be sure to check out our Youtube Channel: MY Voice Canada to watch the videos! 

All in all, the Halal Food Fest was an event packed with everything to please any age. It was an interactive place where everyone can come together and share what they have to offer and just be surrounded with happiness and joy.