By DELLA HETHCOX
Chandler Ballroom buzzed with excitement on Friday, March 25 as the 6th Annual Arab Culture Night prepared to dazzle the campus with traditional Arabic dances, music, fashion and food.
From side to side, the Ballroom was filled with University of Mary Washington students and faculty, local community members and families representing the local Arab communities. No matter their origins, attendees of all ages came with the expectation of an evening filled with fun, education and mingling with friends and family.
Sponsored by the Dean’s Office of the College of Art and Sciences, the Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literature, the Center for International Education, the Department of Political Science and International Affairs and the Arabic Culture Club, this event grows more and more ambitious with each succeeding year.
From the fashion show to the dinner, not a detail was amiss as the many volunteers from the Arabic Culture Club flitted through the room, ensuring that each guest made the most of their evening.
Although the key speaker, Dr. Mahdi Aminrazavi, was unable to speak due to illness, the organizers transitioned refocus the evening with the help of the many dance and musical acts, and particularly due to the masters of ceremonies, Kutoof Alwazir and David Mercer, whose playful banter set the tone for the evening.
According to Alwazir, the goal of Arab Culture Night is to present the community with the essence of Arab culture, and what better way to experience a culture than through food and dance?
Throughout the evening, the audience was not shy about participating in the event, contributing to making it feel more of a community gathering. Thanks to the children in the audience, with the help of Alwazir and Mercer, the crowd learned basic Arabic vocabulary.
In an entertaining video shown that evening, ACC interviewed the campus as well as the community to find out what they knew about Arabic cultures and countries. However, the video pointed out that many people do not know very much about Arabic culture. But that’s what this event is for: to educate the public and introduce them to aspects of the cultures that they may have not encountered before.
For the fashion show, styles from over 11 countries were represented and modeled by UMW students. Sophomore English major Daksha Khatri coordinated and choreographed the runway show, which was a highlight of the evening for many in the audience.
Although the garments are similar in style (modesty and full coverage is very important for Arab fashion), each country has their own unique twist in the embellishments and colors of the garments, for both men and women. The fashion show represented the diversity found in the Arab countries, from the elaborate embroidery found in Jordan and Palestine, to the sparkling, shimmering jalabiyas worn by Egyptians.
After the fashion show came live music by DJ Kimo and JC, which no one could resist moving along to, especially not the children who made the most of the Ballroom space with their excited dancing.
Not only was there a dabke (a traditional line dance) performed by UMW students, but also by a Palestine dance troupe called Faris al Layl Dabke, which delighted everyone with their energy.
Not to be ignored was the belly dancing performed by the UMW Middle Eastern Dance Club, who enchanted the crowd with their seemingly effortless movements. Bringing high energy to the dance portions was Yasser Darwish, an Egyptian dancer who stunned the crowd with a traditional Egyptian dance involving sticks (Yasser invited audience members to help him) and another dance inspired by Sufism involving a spinning dervish.
The apex of the event was the dinner sponsored by the local Mediterranean restaurant, Aladin. Traditional foods were devoured, leading to a student to declare on YikYak that the “food at Arabic Culture Night was lit!”
Six years later and it seems as though the community will never stop enjoying this annual event and the education and entertainment it provides.