‘Salam & howdy’: Muslims travel from across Texas for ‘largest Suhoor fest’ in the state

Bilal Rahman | Mercury Staff



The simmering of countless spices mingled with the joyous laughter of attendees of Suhoor Fest as a “Salam and Howdy” sign welcomed friends and families. The festival, held on March 23 from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. at the multipurpose fields of UTD, was the ‘largest Suhoor fest’ in Texas, according to the organizers. 

According to UTD PD, there were over 35,000 festival goers; Suhoor Fest hosted over 150 vendors offering cuisines ranging from Mediterranean to Yemeni, providing UTD students with convenient suhoor options that reflect the wide range of cultures around the DFW area. UTD’s Pakistani Student Association partnered with co-creators of Halal Palate — Faraz and Ambreen Ahmed — to create this event. PSA said it took almost a year to plan, including connecting with vendors and getting the festival approved by the UTD PD, SOC parking and food catering. All food vendors The Mercury interviewed are located in the DFW area within 30 minutes of campus. 

Abu Omar Halal, one of the festival vendors, primarily serves Mediterranean food, with prices ranging from $10-20. Try the chicken shawarma, one of the most popular dishes on the menu; it is quite large and can be cut up into eight pieces to make it easier to eat, served alongside a heap soft fries. The chicken shawarma was wrapped in a tortilla containing​ juicy​ chicken and various vegetables to enhance the fresh taste of the food. Ahmad Aljanaydeh — the manager of one of the Abu Omar Halal restaurant chains — emphasized that they make their food just like it’s done in Jordan, using skewers rather than an actual grill. 

“This food always reminded me of back home,” Aljanaydeh said. “We were the first people to serve this kind of food in the same exact style [as like back home].”  

Loco Dogs — a student-led hot dog shop — began November 2023 and saw high demand during Muslim Student Association’s showdown event at UTD on March ​2​. The shop usually comes to campus during Muslim community events and offers halal hot dogs ranging from $8-10. Their Popper hot dog was a hit, slathered in turkey bacon and crushed Cheetos to balance out the tangy barbeque with spice. Loco Dogs’ co-founders — computer science senior ​U​said Hilal and computer information technology and systems sophomore Yamaan Moton —  said they wanted to try something new and were motivated by the lack of halal hot dog places in the DFW area. 

“At every event we [went to we] have sold out, so we see that so far it’s only been successful,” Hilal said. “So it just motivates us to do even better and more.” 

Desi’oso — short for Desi and Delicioso — combines authentic Indian cuisine with a diverse staff. Staff member Cristina Guerrero’s passion for celebrating Ramadan comes from her husband; she converted to Islam seven years ago and has practiced crafting her husband’s cultural dishes ever since. Trying the aloo chaat, a savory potato dish, was a refreshing break from the heavier food offerings at the festival. The crunchiness of the toppings and the onions mixed well with the fluffy potato and chickpeas, and the raw mango’s tangy taste and cilantro’s freshness provided balance to the sweet chutney. Guerrero said Desi’oso’s main goal for attending Suhoor Fest was to bring together the community.  


Big Dash, one of the biggest sponsors of the event, offers Middle Eastern pastries and desserts; dishes range from $10-20 among which the Kinafa is popular. This confection combines both soft and crunchy textures into one dish, with layers of sweet cheese and filo dough topped with syrup and pistachios. Asmaa Khattab, the owner of Big Dash, emphasized the importance of platforming dishes that are niche, even in the Muslim community. 

“I feel like we did such a great job of bringing those old desserts back to life,” Khattab said. “Everybody knows about [Kinafa] now. It’s an Arabian dessert, but now it’s everybody’s dessert.” 

Tutto Halal, an Italian vendor, provided an unconventional take on halal food. Owner Alessio Arzola said he was inspired by his mixed roots, as growing up Italian and Muslim helped him adapt Italian food with halal-friendly options. The shop’s orzo dish, a less-known kind of pasta, was heavenly. It was mild with an emphasis on buttery herbs; despite the lack of salt it was still delightful. This dish was offered specifically for Suhoor Fest and cost $10.99. The garlic and olive oil base — or aglio e olio — mixed in with the pasta added an authentic Italian flavor. 

“Italian food that’s halal has never been a weird concept to me … but it is to a lot of people. During Ramadan, you share what you have, and I just wanted to share that gift [of food] with people,” Arzola said. 

Faraz Ahmed and Ambreen Ahmed are the creators of Halal Palate, an Instagram platform that started making food vlogs during the COVID-19 pandemic to highlight small restaurants that could go out of business. Keeping that mission in mind, Faraz and Ambreen decided to highlight halal restaurants in the DFW area so the Muslim community can learn about lesser-known options.  At the festival, Halal Palate organized two booths that donated all their profits and tips to civilians in Palestine, including Cutz4Pali — which gave haircuts — and Pickle4Pali — a pay-per-play fair game.  

“I like to highlight how the festival was done in the light of everything that’s going on in Palestine right now,” Ahmed said. “We are donating a portion of this festival revenue to Baitul Maal [an Islamic charity] that’s going to be donating them straight to Gaza.” 

Faraz reached out to vice president of UTD PSA Abdullah Chaudhry where he requested to collaborate and make Suhoor Fest happen. It took several months for PSA to reserve the multipurpose field and bring safety and security to the event. PSA has experience hosting events like the Eid Meila, with an attendance of 1,500 people, but this is their first time dealing with such a large crowd. Kanza Qarshi, the committee chair of PSA, emphasized bringing the community together to celebrate the suhoor tradition.  

“It’s very nice how we used to be a minority and now we are hosting this big event at UTD, which is a really big opportunity to showcase our culture and religion,” Qarshi said.  



  • What a great writeup , you summarized the so effortlessly that it recreates the whole thing in your mind. I’ve been to a few events but this one was so much better and on a whole another level. The vibes were amazing, Ramadan felt so alive. I am so proud of the community that showed up. I am so proud to be a part of a community that held an event at such a. Huge level without any hiccups. Pat yourselves on the back hahalpalat team and utd Psa. Yall really killed it.

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