Tag Archives: Virtual Iftar Project

The Virtual Iftar Project

The most insightful and meaningful conversations I’ve had with strangers have usually occurred over a meal. Some of the most memorable include:

  • The Russians I met in the Trans-Siberian Railway’s dining car.
  • The Cubans I met in a restaurant in Pinar del Rio.
  • The Israelis I met in the Kibbutz’s dining hall.
  • The Palestinians I met in their homes who always treated me to a delicious meal.
  • The Germans I shared a “second breakfast” with on the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.
  • The Egyptians in Cairo with whom I shared my Thanksgiving tradition last November.

The list is endless, but what stands out in my memory are the conversations we had on each occasion. While breaking bread together, we shared, we listened, and we learned from each other.

In this cynical and highly polarized world, I believe there’s a critical need for people-to-people communication and understanding. Eric Maddox, an American I first met in 2012 over a meal at Cafe Riche in downtown Cairo has set the gold standard for how to make this happen with his Virtual Dinner Guest Project.

VDG project Gaza

Palestinians in Gaza share a meal and conversation with Native Americans in Oakland in 2013.

In 2013, I watched Eric connect Palestinians in Gaza with Native Americans in Oakland by using 21st century technology to recreate an ancient tradition of sharing a meal and conversation with members of our tribe. Now we can share with the “other” on the other side of the planet. Not just a Skype chat but a structured conversation over a meal with the goal of learning about each other directly, not through the mainstream media or social media that often do a better job of playing to our fears and superstition about the “other.” Imagine the possibilities!

Eric explains his latest project.

The Virtual Iftar Project Episode 4: Gaza-Amsterdam

In our final episode we connected youth in Amsterdam and the Gaza Strip for an online dialogue over Iftar (July, 2015) and a collaborative film project between their two communities.

Each vox pop film address a question that each side asked of the other. For the Amsterdam film, our Dutch team seeks an answer to Gaza’s question: “What would you do if you found your community under military occupation?” While the Palestinian side posed the following question to the people of Gaza: “How can the international community best support the people of Gaza?”

The views expressed in each film represent the unfiltered opinions from the streets of each community, and do not necessarily represent the views of our producers. We are a nonpartisan and nonsectarian initiative focussed on breaking facile media and political narratives with truly grassroots collaborative media projects.

The Virtual Iftar Project Gaza-Amsterdam is the last of 4 episodes documenting our road trip across the Balkan Routes and central Europe during Ramadan 2015. Filmmaker Katie Cook, and Producer and project founder Eric Maddox, embarked up this #RamadanRoadtrip, just as the EU refugee crisis was beginning in early summer in order to connect Europeans with young people in Muslim-majority countries for focussed online discussions and collaborative film projects. The aim of the project is to demystify the distorted or sensationalized image of “other” that is so often presented in media narratives and political rhetoric around the world.

Participants on both sides connected for a videoconference call, a discussion of thematic topics, and then parted with one final question posed to each side. And that’s where these films begin.

Watch our previous videos featuring Kosovo, Palestine (Gaza), Germany, and Pakistan on our Facebook page, and please share and support our community-funded project today!


Please watch, listen, and feel the message that young people from Gaza and Amsterdam are sharing with each other and with us. THIS GIVES ME HOPE! And after watching, if you believe this project can make a global shift in how we view the “other” and want to become involved, check it out here.

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Filed under Gaza, Media, Peaceful, People, Uncategorized, Video

The Virtual Iftar Project

Cafe Rich in downtown Cairo

Cafe Rich in downtown Cairo

Three or four years ago, I met an American in Cairo who shared a novel idea with me over dinner one evening at Cafe Riche.   He wanted to use technology like Skype to connect people from different countries and cultures to share a conversation over a meal.  Honestly, I was blown away with the idea.

When do we have our most honest and intimate conversations?  When we’re sitting together around the table eating dinner!  That’s where we build understanding and trust.  Eric Maddox ran with his idea and The Virtual Dinner Guest Project was launched.

The Virtual Dinner Guest Project is a movement aimed at creating a global cultural shift in the way people view their relationship to news media, from one of passive consumption, to one of collaborative production, at the local level, and on a global scale.

I observed a virtual dinner between the Palestinians in Gaza, Palestine and the Native Americans in Oakland, CA in 2013. They sat thousands of miles apart while speaking with each other as though they were across the table from one another, asking questions, sharing answers, eating dinner in Gaza and breakfast in Oakland.  Maddox writes:

Imagine if we started utilizing emerging technologies to “connect” in the ways that actually make a difference. Imagine using our “connectivity” to bring things full circle and get back to where human connections first started, back to the world’s oldest and most universal social forum… back to the dinner table, and towards a new kind of media movement.

The most recent dinners and conversations were organized this year during Ramadan, in the Virtual Iftar Project.  “Iftar” is the meal that Muslims share when they break their fast at sundown. Find the Virtual Iftar Project on Facebook here.

Maddox and his team followed a path taken by many Syrian refugees in Europe. They traveled from Serbia, to Kosovo and Germany, all the way to the Netherlands. In this video (part 1 of 4) he connects people from Kosovo and Gaza over an Iftar meal. Then the participants go out into their communities and ask ordinary people questions raised by their dinner guests. The more we share their questions and answers, the more we’ll learn from each other.

I hope you’ll watch and stay connected with the Virtual Dinner Guest Project.  *This* is how we build a future of security, peace, safety and understanding, not in the board rooms at the World Bank or in the shuttle diplomacy of the elite diplomats. And certainly not with our drones and bombs.


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Filed under Egypt, Gaza, Peaceful, People, Video