By JASMINE TURNER
Arab Culture Night is one of the many cultural celebrations hosted at the University of Mary Washington in honor of a diversity awareness initiative. Sponsored by the Arab Culture Club with the help of Dean’s office of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, and the Center for International Education, Thursday night was filled with an array of displays dedicated to showcasing the richness of the culture.
“This is my second year hosting Arab Culture night,” said senior communications major, David Mercer. “I am looking forward to seeing how the students will be able to adapt to having a stage this year. Last year we did not have a stage. I am also very excited for all of the community members that come out who are not students or faculty at UMW because they participate and they really enjoy the show. I am really enthusiastic about pleasing them.”
The outside lobby area of Chandler Ballroom was dedicated to information about Middle Eastern countries’ flags, historical landmarks and various trademark foods on display boards. On Ball Circle, Bar C Ranch offered students a walk around, on a live camel.
Rebecca Akers attended Arab Culture night for the first time as a sophomore transfer student. She said, “I haven’t really heard much about the event, but I am just really excited to learn more about the Arab culture. I’m doing it for an extra credit event, but I also have friends from Pakistan, so I want to learn more about them.” One of the key aspects of the night was for the attendees to receive a broader knowledge of what makes up the Arab culture through live music, dancing, fashion and food.
“Peace, come on, love, and no” were the four words taught to the crowd to start off the night. Hosts, David Mercer and Caitriona Cobb, said that “the Arabic language is a very important part to learning about the Arab culture.” To stress the importance to the audience, the host included everyone in a trivia game about the Arab cultures. Winners received a gift card to Aladin, a Mediterranean Restaurant located in Fredericksburg. Aladin also provided the dinner and appetizers for the night.
The night continued with a Middle Eastern Fashion show, with clothes provided by Elham AlQaq, as a group of UMW’s students walked across the stage and through the crowd in pieces from Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Sudan and other countries associated with the Middle Eastern culture.
There were 11 performances, two of which included live music from Mo Amir. Singing and playing songs from his keyboard and laptop, Amir invited many willing participants onto the stage to dance. During Amir’s performances, some individuals got to show off their moves one by one. UMW’s very own Middle Eastern Dance Club dominated the stage and ground floor moving to Amir’s music.
Another crowd favorite happened to be Mr. Yasser who wowed the audience with his Skirt and Stick dance. Senior, Sierra Turner said that her favorite part of the night was Yasser’s performances.
“Both of those were great performances and very entertaining,” Turner said. “The lighting crew helped set the mood with both of Mr. Yasser’s performances creating intensity for the stick dance and humor for the skirt dance. A few crowd members had the opportunity to join Yasser on stage to battle him during his stick dance.
Before the crowd got a chance to dig into the highly anticipated meal following all of the night’s performers, Faris al Layl Dabke ended the cultural displays by leading everyone in their performance titled “Dabka.” In recent years, the audience has been encouraged to join in Faris al Layl Dabke’s dance around the entire room. This year, however, everyone joined together on stage creating a spiral of stomping feet and laughter.
“My favorite part about Arab Culture Night was seeing a fusion of Arab culture but also just seeing so many people in the community that I haven’t seen before,” said senior, Mariam Khan. “The food was amazing. It was an amazing program.”