About 100 people from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds gathered with the Sammamish Muslim community on June 16 to celebrate an Iftar dinner for Ramadan. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

About 100 people from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds gathered with the Sammamish Muslim community on June 16 to celebrate an Iftar dinner for Ramadan. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Celebrating unity and love | Sammamish residents gather for traditional Ramadan dinner

Throughout history, religious differences have torn people and entire nations apart.

Even in recent months, headlines have been full of hate crimes and acts of terrorism, both across the ocean and here in Washington.

But on the evening of June 16, about 100 people of many different faiths gathered at the Pine Lake Community Center in Sammamish to celebrate a traditional Ramadan Iftar dinner with the local Muslim community. Although half the people at the dinner were not practicers of Islam, they came together in a show of unity to demonstrate that the bonds of love and friendship are stronger than any differences between people.

Ramadan is celebrated by Muslims throughout the world for one month every year to honor the revelation of the Quran to the prophet Muhammad. Every day during Ramadan, Muslims are expected to fast during daylight hours (including abstaining from water), until the sun goes down.

After sundown, Muslims gather together to share a meal known as Iftar. It is this special, communal meal that was celebrated at the community center.

Yasmine Abeldayem, who helped organize the dinner, said that the local Muslim community had been wanting to share an Iftar dinner with the non-Muslim community for years to share their cultures with one another, but she never knew how to organize such an event.

“We thought it would be amazing to break those boundaries while breaking bread,” Abeldayem said.

It was the creation of a local peace and tolerance activist group, Plateaupians for Peace, that provided Abeldayem and her friends with an outlet through which to organize an Iftar gathering.

Abeldayem co-chairs a sub-committee of Plateaupians called “Neighbours Without Borders” (spelled with a u because some of its members come from British commonwealth countries that use this spelling). The committee’s mission is to unite people from all of the different cultures in Sammamish and help people learn about one another’s backgrounds.

“We all come from different places, but we have the same heart,” said Neighbours Without Borders Co-Chair Hayley Gudgin, who emigrated to the Seattle area from the U.K.

As the sun went down, the 40 or so Muslim attendees conducted their evening Maghrib prayer, facing in the direction of Mecca. The non-Muslims in attendance watched quietly and respectfully, fascinated to learn about the practices of another faith in such an up-close way.

Abeldayem said in the past, if she has been in public when it is time for one of the five daily prayers, she has found a private place to pray, such as a dressing room in a store. Being able to pray openly in front of the members of the community on June 16, she said, “made me feel at peace.”

“I was so happy,” she said. “I felt blessed.”

When the prayers were completed, the group sat down to eat a feast of traditional Middle Eastern foods, which had been prepared by a local Syrian refugee family that started a catering business after moving to the Seattle area.

Abeldayem, whose family moved to Sammamish from Egypt 10 years ago, said that thankfully, she has never experienced any hate speech or threats here. However, she did note that coming from so far away, it can be a little harder to make friends “in such a fast-paced community,” and observed that “it’s easier to make friends if you have the same background.”

This was why Neighbours Without Borders felt it was so important to have an event like the June 16 dinner. The Iftar gathering brought together people born in a variety of countries besides the U.S., including Egypt, Pakistan, Palestine, Iraq, India, the U.K., Germany, Colombia and Spain.

“We have a lot of differences between us, and we wanted to do some events that would help us get to know each other and understand each other’s cultures better,” said Gudgin, who is a Christian.

Abeldayem said she loves the chance to learn about other faiths and cultures, and, in turn, welcomes it when anyone asks her about her own practices, such as why she chooses to wear a hijab (“It makes me feel complete; it’s part of my identity”), or the significance of the five daily prayers (“You put everything that’s worldly behind you and focus on something that’s bigger than you”).

“It gets you to know each other more,” Abeldayem said of these conversations. “We’re made to be different, that’s what makes us interesting.”

Gudgin said that the committee hopes to grow and increase its events over time. The group is “happy to do an event with any religion or culture,” and welcomes anyone who would like to step forward and help organize an event around their heritage.

“It doesn’t matter that we have different faiths, it’s that we can connect with each other and listen to each other … it doesn’t have to be a threat,” Gudgin said.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@issaquahreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.issaquahreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

From left, Reham Shehata, Ghada Madkour and Yasmine Abeldayem all helped to organize the Iftar dinner. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

From left, Reham Shehata, Ghada Madkour and Yasmine Abeldayem all helped to organize the Iftar dinner. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The idea of the dinner was for people with different heritages to get to know one another and share their cultural traditions. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The idea of the dinner was for people with different heritages to get to know one another and share their cultural traditions. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The event saw a variety of locals, including members of the Sammamish City Council and Mayor Don Gerend, in attendance. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

The event saw a variety of locals, including members of the Sammamish City Council and Mayor Don Gerend, in attendance. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Organizers shared their traditional Ramadan recipes and decorations for the celebration. As with Christmas, there are certain decorations that are brought out every year just for Ramadan. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Organizers shared their traditional Ramadan recipes and decorations for the celebration. As with Christmas, there are certain decorations that are brought out every year just for Ramadan. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Abeldayem brought her Ramadan decorations all the way from Egypt and shared them for the Iftar dinner at the Pine Lake Community Center. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Abeldayem brought her Ramadan decorations all the way from Egypt and shared them for the Iftar dinner at the Pine Lake Community Center. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

More in News

Golfer tees-off at previous Salmon Open Tournament (photo courtesy of Issaquah Chamber of Commerce)
Salmon Open Golf Tournament fundraiser set to return at Mount Si Golf Course

Registration for the event extended to Monday, May 17.

Issaquah’s Depot in 2019 (photo courtesy of Issaquah’s Depot Museum)
Issaquah Depot Museum to re-open

The museum will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 11 am to 3 pm.

Matt Marshall, leader of the Washington Three Percenters gun rights group, addresses a crowd rallying for Second Amendment rights Jan. 17, 2020, at the state Capitol in Olympia. File photo
Open-carry of weapons now illegal at state Capitol, rallies

A new law bars people from carrying guns within 250 feet of a permitted demonstration.

(Pixabay.com)
As rates of stoned drivers increase, law enforcement face challenges

WSP trooper said a THC breathalyzer would be a “game changer” for law enforcement and courts.

E. coli. Photo courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration
Seven King County children sickened with E. coli

Seven children in King County have been infected with E. coli, a… Continue reading

Early morning fire on May 12 at Gilman Village (photo credit: Eastside Fire and Rescue Twitter)
Eastside Fire and Rescue responds to two seperate fires at the same Gilman Village restaurant in less than 12 hours

The second fire on Wednesday morning caused the roof of the Egg and Us restaurant to collapse.

Sound Publishing file photo
Remi Frederick, a Village Green employee, receives her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Jan. 26 in Federal Way.
County health officer looks to community immunity instead of herd immunity

Herd immunity may be unlikely to reach King County anytime soon, but… Continue reading

file photo
May 7th pop-up vaccination clinic planned for Central Park in Issaquah Highlands

The City of Issaquah is partnering with Eastside Fire and Rescue to provide the vaccinations.

Most Read