Muslims across the region will be anticipating their special day as the holy month of Ramadan draws to a close. With only nine days left of the month, people in Greater Manchester will be making plans about how to celebrate Eid.
One thing that is sure to be on people’s travel itineraries is a visit to the world famous Wilmslow Road in Rusholme, also known as Curry Mile. A staple of Eid celebrations, thousands of people have taken to the streets over the years to take part in the festivities where children, children devour ice cream and sweets, young men and women lounge at the popular shisha spots, families enjoy delicious food at restaurants and flashy sports cars driving up and down the road.
How are the countless businesses on the road preparing for the big day, as Curry Mile is the place to be for Eid celebrations? The MEN went to Curry Mile to ask local entrepreneurs about their plans.
While many restaurants see Eid as one of the biggest days on their calendar after a quiet month during Ramadan, some employees don’t quite share their enthusiasm. Bash, who has worked at the Walnut Persian Restaurant for eight years, described Eid as ‘terrible’ because of the heavy workload the restaurant undertakes as people celebrate for three days.
Speaking to the MEN, he said: “It’s terrible! So many people, so much traffic, so busy for three days, no lies at all. It’s a big headache, we sort things out by taking bookings, and people are already making them with only ten days to go.
“The staff does not have a day off during Eid, we expect to serve almost 400 people that day.”
With ten days to go, people have already started making plans, one of which is what clothes they will wear on the special day.
One of the busiest stores in the run-up to Ramadan is the clothing stores on Wilmslow Road. Raouf is the owner of Farouq Fabrics who has been working on Wilmslow Road for 42 years.
He says the company sees most of the action during the last two weeks of Ramadan and that it gets so busy that they sometimes have to close well into the early morning.
“The first half of Ramadan is quiet, people fast and don’t feel like buying anything,” explains Raouf. “As the Eid date gets closer, the storm is coming.
“It’s stress, but this is our time of year, we make the money, it’s our peak time, so we just take it. The top sellers are ready to wear, loose clothes, most of the customers are for the last week, 10 days, it is getting closer and people are excited that they want to buy.
“We close on Eid, we’re done and dusted and deserve our day off, but the day before we’ll be here until 12 noon – 1 AM. Those late shifts were exhausting, but you bite your tongue and keep going.”
Another business that has been on Curry Mile for many years is Eastern Gold, a jewelry store that has also spent 42 years on the strip. They say they’ve worked hard to fix up the store for the big day and say they plan to stay open as long as possible.
Knowing that it won’t just be people from Manchester who come to celebrate Eid on Wilmslow Road, owner Mr Rashid and his son Mustafa want to show people that Curry Mile offers more than just food.
The owner, Mr Rashid, told the MEN: “We are refurbishing, getting ready and making things more accessible. We’re going to put out the chocolates for the kids and let people wander around and take a look.
“There is absolutely no obligation to buy anything, we want people to treat the road as a day trip. Imagine driving 40, 50 or 60 miles to get to Wimmy Road, grab a bite to eat and then get back in the car to drive away, there’s no point.
“Our intention is to keep the showroom open, to let people come in and have fun. It’s a way of making the road more accessible and inviting, when all the shutters are down and only the restaurants are open, there’s nothing inviting about it.
“We’ve been known to stay open until 2am because the public is around.”
Wilmslow Road has recently opened a slew of new businesses since the pandemic, one of those stores being Malal Shaam, a Syria-based candy store that has been on Curry Mile for four months. Samer, who works in the store, said: “During Ramadan, business grows steadily and gets busier in the evenings.
“We expect our Baklava to become our big seller, so we brought a lot of pastries, pistachios and walnuts to make everything here. We’ve seen the pictures, we know how busy it is and that’s one of the reasons we have here set up a shop.”
Another new company on the strip is the popular Pitmaster. A halal smokehouse that serves burgers, shakes and spareribs. This year will be their first Eid without any Covid restrictions and they say they expect it to be ‘rammed’.
Co-owner Zain Suleman said: “Last time it was closed and it was takeout only so that was an experience in itself. We expect it to be rammed, it’s just a walk-in because people come from far away so we want everyone to experience us.
“We plan to stay late because it’s so busy it’s a good idea. Economically it’s huge for the community, I don’t think there will be a place that will be empty on Eid.”