New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

NYU Arab Festival vibrantly celebrates Middle Eastern and North African cultures

With performances, food stations and a fashion show, the event brought students together to highlight the diversity of Middle Eastern and North African countries.
Logan O’Connor
NYU Engage’s Arab Fest took place on April 15, 2024. (Logan O’Connor for WSN)

On Monday, April 15, in the Kimmel Center for University Life’s Eisner and Lubin Auditorium, the Arab Students Association hosted the Arab Festival. The event was a spectacular display of the rich, vibrant cultures of the different countries in the Middle Eastern and North African region. Dozens of attendees were dancing, singing and clapping to the music and performances the whole evening. 

“NYU is such a big school overall and there is not a lot of representation for the Arab students, so having clubs like this and events like this is able to really bring us together,” Stern senior and ASA president Sofia Elhusseini said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to honor and share our cultures together and our heritage and our backgrounds.”

Though the ASA was the primary organizer of the event, the organization also collaborated with other Arab clubs at the university such as The Egyptian Union and the Lebanese Club of NYU. 

Some students represented their cultures through traditional dress, such as the Amazigh traditional dress of Morocco, the Palestinian “thobe” and the traditional dress of Yemen, while others represented their countries through the different nations’ flags. 

“My favorite part was the fashion runway,” Stern junior Ouissam Brahmi said. “I got to represent Alegria by wearing a traditional caftan and was able to enjoy Algerian music with the community.” 

The event also featured delicious dishes from various Arab countries such as chicken and beef shawarma, “ful medammas” and “koshary”, and “msemmen” flatbread with honey. The desserts included “makrout el louz,” “makrout laassel,” “dziriet” and “mkhebez”, Algerian cookies which Brahmi made from scratch.

“It’s important to have these types of events because we need representation and we want to know there is a community dedicated to people with our backgrounds,” Brahmi said. “It gives NYU an inclusive feel.” 

The dance group “In Dance We Trust” from the International House, a nonprofit organization offering residential housing for international students, performed dabke. This dance style is a centuries old practice that has been performed throughout the Arab countries in the Levant region. The group consisted of students of Palestinian, Turkish, Guatemalan, Mexican, Chinese and Armenian origin, with many of the students learning the dance style for the first time. 

“As we practiced and danced together it really created that sense of community,” Ghadeer Hamati, a performer in the group said.

The proceeding events included other cultural performances from NYU students, including “Zahrat al-Mada’en,” a song about Jerusalem. The event also featured a photo booth and a 360-degree camera for photo-ops as well as an evil eye bracelet making station. 

While the event was mainly about cultural expression and the cross-cultural transmission of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries, students also spoke about the wars happening in Sudan, Gaza and Yemen, and the significance of raising awareness. For them it was an important time for everyone to come together to strengthen their fight and solidarity for their cultures.

“At this current point in time, more than half of the cultures that we’re probably showing the roots of right now are going through some form of genocide or issue in their country,” CAS first-year Saif Ali said. “Each of our cultures are unique … We are able to show that off with this festival and along with all the problems going on, we also want to advocate for them.” 

Although NYU is a large, international institution, some students expressed that it can often be hard to find a strong representation or connection to Arab culture and heritage. The Arab festival is one of the places Arab students, and subsequently non-Arab students, can immerse themselves in their shared cultural heritage and tradition, or experience a culture different from their own. 

NYU is a pretty diverse school and oftentimes there’s a lot of Arabs but we don’t know each other,” Gallatin first-year Ashrqat Saleh said. “Events like this help people come together and to meet other Arabs and get people to know each other.”

TaylorGrace Heller contributed reporting. 

Contact Leila Anderson at [email protected]

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