Storke Plaza received a Middle Eastern makeover yesterday as UCSB’s first Middle Eastern Fair enveloped the square in the traditional music, aromas and aesthetics of the region.
The fair marked the third event of Middle Eastern Cultural Awareness Week – a string of activities aimed at educating UCSB students on the nuances of Middle Eastern culture. During the event, a variety of Middle Eastern foods, live performances by the UCSB Middle Eastern Ensemble and belly dancers provided entertainment for nearly 500 students in attendance.
Thalia Jarjour, vice president of the Lebanese Club and second-year business economics and communications major, said the event effectively conveyed a Middle Eastern atmosphere and made the culture more accessible to the student body.
“The food went out in the first two hours,” Jarjour said. “We had over 500 people that came out and it was just really successful. We are really happy with the turnout and feel that [the event] provided a really big taste of the Middle East.”
Alexander Baradei, Lebanese Club president and the event’s organizer, said his organization spearheaded the event along with the Persian Student Group, Assyrian Student Alliance, Armenian Student Association, Hillel, the Muslim Student Association and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies.
While Baradei, a third-year biopsychology and Middle Eastern studies major, said the recent controversy surrounding David Horowitz and an advertisement in the Daily Nexus condemning MSA on April 14 was not the central reason for the event, but that the situation did instigate a drive within the Middle Eastern community on campus to combat prejudice.
“Through David Horowitz’s ads and comments, it has become apparent that the Middle Eastern students must have an event to promote awareness,” Baradei said. “He says he’s only talking about terrorism, but he seems to be talking about the Middle Eastern culture in general. I wouldn’t say this week was done because of Horowitz, but because of what he did and said, it inspired us to be more passionate about this week.”
In addition to offering students new insight into Arabic, Persian, Assyrian and other cultures, Ava Moradieh-Kashani, co-president of the Persian Student Group, said the events of the week sought to combat false stereotypes of Middle Eastern peoples.
“The only perspective the West has is the enemy’s perspective,” Moradieh-Kashani, a second-year global studies and political science major said. “We celebrate the Middle Eastern culture, music, history, art, food, clothing and lifestyle. We don’t want to lose our culture and our history, and we try to educate the community, bring awareness, promote diversity on campus and just try and fight racism.”
The final event of Middle Eastern Cultural Awareness Week, Persian Cultural Night, will take place tonight from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the MultiCultural Center Theater. Music, dance and Persian sweets will be offered for all those in attendance.