Kelly Cryderman / Calgary Herald / Sunday, July 06, 2008
Just a few steps from where square dancers whirl is an exhibit on the restoration of historic Islamic sites in countries such as Syria, Egypt and Afghanistan.
And alongside breakfast-eaters’ pancakes, sausage and eggs comes a dollop of stew-like bharazi, an East African dish made of pigeon peas and a mild coconut sauce.
The Ismaili community has always done a traditional Stampede breakfast — with a Muslim twist.
But over its 12 years of existence, the Ismaili Muslim community breakfast has evolved to become one of the city’s largest and most organized breakfasts, thrusting it into the mainstream of Stampede events, say community members and fans.
“This breakfast has helped us reach out to Calgarians,” said Nashir Samanani, president of the Ismaili Council for the Prairies.
The event brings together a cross-section of people that do not always mix on a day-to-day basis. On Saturday young women in short-shorts and cowboy hats could be seen eating alongside old men wearing traditional wool Afghan hats called pakols.
“It’s a must-attend event for our organization,” said David Chalack, vice-chairman of the Calgary Stampede board.
He along with other attending politicians spoke of the “precision” in the organizing of the event, which is held at the city’s major Jamatkhana — the Ismaili house of worship.
There’s 500 volunteers making up parking, catering, security and logistics teams. And after a vicious thunder and lightning storm destroyed a giant tent that had been only partially erected last year, volunteers packed up and moved the whole event to a different location in the space of five hours.
The community-based breakfast doesn’t do any advertising. Instead Calgary’s Ismaili community members are encouraged to tell friends, neighbours and co-workers to come out.
Calgary’s 11,000 Ismaili Muslims appear to take the job seriously. Most of the approximately 5,000 people attending Saturday’s breakfast were either Ismaili themselves or had been invited by an Ismaili relative, friend or colleague.
However, there were at least some who came out who had no obvious ties to the community.
“We’ve heard a lot of good things about it,” said Dana Pearson, 34.
“You get a little bit more than just pancakes. You get the peas,” added her friend and fellow speech pathologist Rhonda Hellardm, 36.
Former Tory MLA Stan Nelson, who has attended the breakfast for many years, said years ago he could find a parking spot with no problem. Now, he said Saturday, it’s not so easy.
“Today when you look around you will see many people from many backgrounds,” Nelson said.
“It’s like going down to the Stampede grounds.”
The community also used the breakfast to unveil a travelling exhibit on the Aga Khan Trust for Culture’s Historic Cities Programme, which promotes the conservation and restoration of buildings and public spaces in historic cities of the Muslim world.
This is the last stop on its Canadian tour and the line to get in to see the display snaked around the building.
Also on Saturday, Chinook Centre general manager Terry Napper hailed his organization’s breakfast a success, despite major construction at the mall.
He said there were even some extra parking spaces left open as many people chose to take public transit.
Napper said volunteers fed as many as 50,000. “It went really smooth,” he said.
Saturday saw the winners of the first-ever Calgary Stampede Full House contest have their pancake breakfast prepared by Stampede chefs.
Stampede officials said Tarnia and Derek Wallace invited neighbours, family and friends – some from as far away as Ottawa – for a pancake breakfast in their backyard.
Keeping the Faith – Ismaili Muslims host Historic Cities exhibit