Meeting Omar Salha, the founder of the Ramadan Tent Project

Ramadan tent project iftar
7 min read
01 April, 2024

It is easy to speak about managing your self-care and wellness when your business is not at its peak during the highest spiritual point of the year. Or when you’re not leading a team of approximately 15 people and thousands of volunteers across multiple cities.

So how does Omar Salha, the founder and chief executive of the Ramadan Tent Project look after his wellbeing during what is both the Holy Month and the busiest time for his charity?

"As the Ramadan Tent Project celebrates over 10 years, it is with much faith and without a shadow of a doubt that it will continue to inspire and remind everyone that we are better together"

“It's always important to remind ourselves not to miss out on the abundance of blessings that this month comes with,” says Salha.

“And we always ensure that we have the option of a timeout, whenever one of us feels like they need a break away from their work and duties because they feel as though their imaan, physical or mental health may be at jeopardy.”

Managing the collective and individual mental health of a charity is a climb and feat for any company. Therefore Salha is proud to be able to be included in the Ramadan Tent Project’s working culture.

“We always make time for each other and make time for our Lord because everything that we do is in the way of Allah and is in the way of our service to Him.”

“Service” is a word Salha uses often when discussing a purpose bigger than himself. This is a reminder of how the Ramadan Tent Project began in 2013 — as a group of students at SOAS University of London who came together to invite international students to breakfast and make those away from home form a new chosen family.

“A quote I resonate with is when Muhammad Ali said ‘Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth’ and so our time here on Earth is to be of service to others. And we do so because we are grateful for our blessings”.

Over the next decade, the initiative has grown further than anyone could have predicted. The concept of Open Iftars was introduced, where those breaking their fast could break them communally and eat together for free in some of the world’s most loved cultural spaces.

The Ramadan Tent Project has taken up space in the Royal Albert Hall, Wembley Stadium, Trafalgar Square, and the V&A as well as in cities around the globe such as Makkah and Medina, Portland and Istanbul. In the UK alone, the Ramadan Tent Project has connected and convened over a million people showing the strength of food and community.

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Yet, it wasn’t always easy for Salha or his team. Hosting in-person community-led events came to an immediate halt during the pandemic of 2020.

For two years, the team could not organise any physical events and had to make a whole tangible concept newly digital — and six feet apart.

#OpenIftar became #MyOpenIftar Ramadan food packs in addition to virtual Ramadan conferences trying to connect people even during the pandemic, where Black, brown and Muslim families were disproportionately affected.

The aftermath of a test can however be a test itself as it took until 2022 for The Ramadan Tent Project to be back — and with full force.

"For us to go through that challenge of being resolute and persevering and also having our key partners on board for those two years, then seeing a plan that was dreamt to be actualised was amazing.

"The opening act of Ramadan 2023 for the 10th anniversary was at the V&A and for it to be at one of the world's leading art and design museums was astounding," Salha explains.

"The very first jummah prayers were held there and seeing the number of millions of visitors across the festival  — it was truly a very, very proud moment."​​​​​​

"As Ramadan acts as a disrupter in many ways and not just for the month but actually, for us to reflect on the year ahead. It's a month of spiritual sustenance to allow us to fuel ourselves for the future"

What Salha and the team at The Ramadan Tent Project have managed to do is bring young people and those of all generations and faiths together to break bread and understand that a sense of belonging can be shared.

Salha and The Ramadan Tent Project continue to lay the foundations that Muslims can be proud of their faiths and be able to share this with everyone around them, from their neighbours to locals who live nearby to connect with old friends at an Open Iftar, regardless of their perspectives. 

To create safe spaces of belonging, where true diversity of thought and actions can sit alongside each other, there are millions of tiny invisible ties upheld by a village of people ensuring the atmosphere the charity has created.

The advice Salha has for young activists or those interested in starting a charity is to be patient, even if we are all living in an instant gratification era.

“People will talk about the Ramadan Tent Project now and think it is this great success story by how it is today but also it has taken us over ten years to get to where we are today. It has been achieved through organic means because we started as a grassroots initiative and we are very much still a grassroots charity today.”

“What is imperative,” Salha continues, “is to begin with an articulate need and the solution to the problem you are trying to address and how you will go about doing that.

“It is vital to be patient with yourself and others because they may not see the same perspective you do. Be ready to listen to other perspectives  to learn, to evolve, be ready to adapt and don't see it as a sign of weakness, but instead as a sign of adding value  to your sense of belonging and growth as well at the same time.”

So what is Salha and the Ramadan Tent Project up to when they are not hosting conferences, Open Iftars and events during the holy thirty days?

Salha and his team also organise religious dates across the year. For example, the day of Arafah that falls alongside the Hajj season as well as the Ashura events where the organisation encourages people around the world and across the UK to fast the 9th, 10th, and 11th days of Muharram.

“Ramadan acts as a disrupter in many ways not just for the month but actually, for us to reflect on the year ahead. It's a month of spiritual sustenance to allow us to fuel ourselves for the year ahead. If we treat Ramadan in that way, then we should be operating on a gradient where year after year, we're improving and increasing in that level of sustenance that is physical, mental, and spiritual.”


Therefore there is an upward energy needed to sustain the Ramadan Tent Project and its growth Ramadan by Ramadan.

There is a need for more hands and minds on board, all a way to celebrate and invite more of the public year by year.

There is also the preparation in which The Ramadan Tent Project work with everyone from brands to artists to curators and programmers for six to eight months to bring together a 60-day festival every day around the UK for Ramadan.

For the foundation, the Ramadan spirit is carried throughout the rest of the year by curating these events.

As the Ramadan Tent Project celebrates more than 10 years, it is with much faith and without a shadow of a doubt that it will continue to inspire and remind everyone that we are better together.

To contribute to The Ramadan Tent Project and what they do to bring together communities, you may donate one time or set up a monthly donation page.

Tahmina Begum is a freelance journalist and editor

Follow her on Twitter @tahminaxbegum