London, the vibrant and diverse capital of the United Kingdom, recently hosted a remarkable gathering of more than 20,000 food enthusiasts hailing from all corners of the world. This grand gastronomic affair was none other than the annual World Halal Food Festival, a celebration of flavors and cultures that has earned its place as the largest and most enduring halal food festival globally. Taking place on September 23-24, this culinary extravaganza unfolded at the iconic London Stadium, nestled within the picturesque Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Now in its eighth year, the World Halal Food Festival has witnessed a remarkable evolution. “I’ve been here from the beginning, and it’s been incredible to watch it grow,” shared Shelina Permalloo, the renowned winner of UK Master Chef 2012, in an interview with Arab News. “We’re growing from strength to strength, getting new chefs in all the time.” Permalloo, together with Master Chef 2023 runner-up Omar Foster, took center stage at the event’s “World Cookery Theater.” The dynamic duo dazzled attendees by recreating some of the signature dishes that catapulted them to culinary fame during their time as Master Chef. “It’s just been incredible,” Permalloo enthused. “Lots of fun, very busy, and great food.”
The significance of the World Halal Food Festival extends far beyond its delicious offerings. In a country where Islam stands as the second-largest religion, the Muslim population has surged by 1.2 million in the past decade, reaching 3.9 million in 2021 (constituting 6.5 percent of the people, up from 4.4 percent in 2011, as per census figures), the halal market in the UK is experiencing a remarkable boom. Its estimated value falls between £1 billion ($1.2 billion) and £2 billion, as reported by the Halal Monitoring Committee, the country’s largest halal certifying body.
Iman Mustafa, Chief Operator of the British Islamic Trade Association, expressed their pivotal role in promoting, facilitating, and supporting businesses supplying halal products and services. “Our aim and our mission are to grow the halal economy within the UK and globally,” Mustafa emphasized.
Waleed Jahangir, the visionary founder and Chief Executive Officer of Algebra Festivals, the driving force behind the World Halal Food Festival, shed light on the festival’s noble objectives. “One of the reasons we decided to set up the World Halal Food Festival was to use food to break down social barriers and misconceptions within the Muslim community,” Jahangir revealed. “It was a way to create a platform to engage all communities using food as a vehicle, and that’s what we’ve done by bringing different genres of people from all different faiths and backgrounds to enjoy food around a table.”
The World Halal Food Festival in London not only tantalizes taste buds but also fosters understanding, unity, and appreciation of the diverse culinary traditions of the global Muslim community and beyond. It’s a melting pot of flavors, cultures, and shared experiences, continuing to leave an indelible mark on the vibrant tapestry of London’s culinary scene and global food culture.