Culture Fest

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Year of the Arabian Peninsula festival celebrates regional arts and cuisine The line never…

Georgia (Sep 23, 2014)

Year of the Arabian Peninsula festival celebrates regional arts and cuisine

The line never diminished in front the table where Saloua Lahlousat sat for three straight hours creating ornately beautiful henna paintings on hands and wrists; nor did her smile and the obvious joy she derives from making people happy with her art.  

Amilia Melimedobic, a first-year student majoring in international affairs, couldn’t stop admiring her new henna tattoo. She was among the students, faculty, staff and community guests at an Arabian Festival Sept. 20 in the Austin Residence Complex Amphitheater. 

“It’s so beautiful, she said. “I hope it never comes off.”

The festival was presented as part of the “Year of the Arabian Peninsula,” a yearlong study of a region that includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The 2014 study marks the 31st “Year of” program at Kennesaw State. 

The music, dance and food featured at Saturday’s festival reflected a wide range of traditions across Arabic-speaking nations.  Guests were treated to two musical performances featuring the oud, a pear-shaped, stringed instrument whose distinct sound is pervasive in the music the Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East and North Africa. Soloist Suheil Sedran serenaded the audience with lyrics and poetry. Haider Atar of Iraq played the oud and sang vocals, accompanied by Tunisian-born Amine Amich, who played the Egyptian Tabla drum. Four dancers from the Atlanta-based Alif Institute performed the Dabkeh dance, a popular folk dance originated in Syria but performed in variations throughout the Middle East.

A generous spread of regionally spiced chicken, beef and lamb, tabbouleh, red rice, hummus, pita breads, cucumber and herb dips and baklava also reflected cuisine recognizable across the Arabic-speaking world.

Throughout the festival, Mark Haddad, a Georgia Tech grad, artfully printed names in Arabic, using an intricate calligraphy style he says has taken him four years to develop.

At the close of the planned performances and demonstrations, a group of men and boys from Saudi Arabia entertained with their own impromptu version of the Debkeh dance.

 “This is the first time I’ve seen so many guys here from my home country,” said Marshal Alhojalil of Saudi Arabia, a first-year student in the Intensive English Program.  “I’m happy to see this festival. It shows so much diversity from the different countries.”

Dan Paracka, the director of Academic Initiatives for the Division of Global Affairs and coordinator of the “Year of” program, said the festival is designed to showcase the culture of the region and give the campus community a chance to interact with community partners and friends from the country or region under study.

“”We try to create a festive atmosphere that brings people together,” Paracka said.  “I think it is working, because, as you see, we have guests and participants from all over the world enjoying learning about the diversity of the Arabian Peninsula.” 

The chance to learn about another culture and broaden her grandchildren’s scope of “different cultures who share this planet with us” prompted Debbie Chimeno, a purchasing agent in the Office of Procurement and Contracting, to bring her entire family to spend an afternoon at the festival. 

“It was great to get a better understanding that the Arabian Peninsula is not a real country where Ali Baba and the 40 thieves lives but a collective of several different countries,” Chimeno said. “The more the children experience other cultures, they will automatically give respect to all and have an understanding of their religion, food, dress, language, etc.”  

The “Year of the Arabian Peninsula” continues throughout the academic year. In addition to weekly lectures each Thursday, upcoming events include:

·      Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 – The Many Faces of the Hijab, 12:30 - 2 p.m. in the Student Center Leadership Room

·       Oct. 2 – Opening of “Tolerance, Understanding, Coexistence: Oman’s Message of Islam, and exhibit from the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman, 5 p.m. in the Social Sciences Atrium. Runs until Oct. 31.

Learn more and view a full schedule of events at

—   Sabbaye McGriff

Photo by Robert Stalcup





A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit