Yesterday’s first-ever Lebanese Awareness Festival featured food, art, music and exhibits detailing the rich cultural history of Lebanon.

The event marked the final day of Lebanese Cultural Awareness Week, held to celebrate the 65th anniversary of Lebanon’s independence. Festival attendees were offered complimentary plates of homemade Lebanese cuisine, which included rice, pita bread and kofta — balls of ground beef mixed with parsley, onions and seasoning — as they explored the fair located outside of the Student Resource Building.

Thalia Jarjour, a third-year business-economics major and Lebanese Club president, said the event was designed to give students a chance to experience various aspects of Lebanese society.

“We want to educate people on the Lebanese culture instead of focusing on the image of a war-stricken country,” Jarjour said. “The media tends to show the rubble of past wars instead of the beauty of Beirut. The point of this festival is to try to educate people and let them experience how thick and beautiful this culture really is.”

A particularly eye-catching poster at the festival featured images of the 5,000 year-old city of Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, and provided a brief history of Beirut and the Lebanon Cedar – the country’s national emblem.

Mark Guevorkin, a fourth-year biopsychology major, said he was drawn to the event by the Lebanese music, and later joined in a traditional Lebanese line dance.

“I happened to be walking by with a Lebanese friend, so I just came with him,” Guevorkin said. “Not only did I learn that Lebanon has one of the oldest cities continuously inhabited, I also learned the steps to a Lebanese dance called Dabke.”

Hala AbdulBaki, vice president of the Lebanese Club, said she hopes the festival helped to rectify misconceptions about Lebanon and the Middle East as a whole.

“I think it is important to create awareness about Lebanon,” Abdul-Baki said. “It’s located in the Middle East, which is currently one of the most controversial parts of the world. Many people seem to generalize it, and group all of the Middle East together. They oftentimes believe the Middle East equals Islam, which is not always the case.”

According to Jarjour, yesterday’s event helped garner much-needed publicity for the Lebanese Club.

“The Lebanese Club has a big event every quarter, [but] since it’s difficult to jumpstart a group during Fall Quarter when everybody is just getting settled, we decided to organize our first annual Lebanese Awareness Week to help publicize,” Jarjour said. “There will also a fair in spring.”

The Lebanese Club is open to students of all backgrounds. Meetings are held every other Monday in the Middle Eastern Resource Center of the Student Resource Building at 8 p.m.