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Maine's Afghan community packs Portland Expo for Eid celebration

This Eid celebration was an opportunity for the state's existing Afghan community to welcome those just arriving in Maine, organizers said.

PORTLAND, Maine — It was an evening of celebration Saturday for members of Maine's Afghan community. Hundreds gathered at the James A Banks Sr Portland Exposition Building to celebrate the Muslim holiday, Eid. 

"We thought it would be a good time for all the Afghans, both the ones that have been living here and the ones that are new, to come together to celebrate this holy day together," event organizer Abdel Qani said. 

Eid marks the end of the monthlong, dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan.

Saturday's event also was an opportunity for Maine's Afghan community to welcome those who have recently arrived in the state.

"They like to see their community, their people, someone to care about them. We are letting them know that we are caring about you guys. We are here to help you with everything. That's very important for us and for them, too," event organizer Masooda Habibcai said. 

According to Qani, between 230 and 250 Afghans have arrived in Maine over the past six months. He said events like this are important to help connect new community members with others who have immigrated to the U.S. and Maine. 

"We have some families that just got to Portland three or four months ago. We didn't meet them. Now they're meeting each other, meeting us, and we're celebrating Eid with each other," Habibcai said. "We have to have connection with our community. Community is very important."

The Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center and the Portland Public Library were also at the celebration. Those groups provided information about services in the area and gave free books to children. 

The celebration also included a large feast with traditional Afghan food.