Arab student group doles a dish of culture

by Amber Foley

The aromatic smell of grilled food and the sound of Arabic music filled the air on Northrop Auditorium’s plaza Thursday afternoon as students and faculty members lined up to get a taste of Arabic culture.
The University’s Arab Student Association wrapped up its Arab Awareness Week by sponsoring a picnic from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Everyone was encouraged to participate.
“As soon as we got started there was a line,” said Sabeen Altaf, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts and ASA member.
“It’s been a really good turnout, better than we ever expected,” said Wessam Sonbol, an Institute of Technology senior and also an ASA member.
Nael Banat, future president of the association, said that the group’s goal with the picnic and all the other activities during the week was to “try to change the stereotypes that people have of the Arabs and to also help bring the Arab community together.”
“We are out here and we’re really not terrorists, we’re normal people,” said Mona Elabbaby, a freshman in IT and member of the Arab Student Association.
Bassam Nasser, Palestine project coordinator, said the group is trying to build bridges between cultures, and as food is a major part of every culture, the gathering fulfilled this goal.
The picnic provided a variety of historically traditional Arabic dishes including Couscous, a main Tunisian dish; rice, which is a traditional Middle Eastern main entree; and Homous and Taboulen served on pita bread. Three dollars provided a portion of each along with an explanation.
“Everyone has put in a little bit to make this happen,” Sonbol said. Nasser added that local Middle Eastern food stores helped to sponsor some of the food.
The Arab Student Association was formed last spring, and although this is their first annual Arab Awareness Week and picnic, Nasser said he hopes it will become a tradition and that they’re able to hold events every year.
“We are trying to bring the message of peace and cooperation between nations, and to bring the Arab world to the Minnesota community,” Nasser said.
The picnic ended with a showing of traditional Arab dance and the singing of national anthems.