September 20, 2018 | ° F

Club spreads Middle Eastern culture with food, song, dance

Photo by Courtesy of Pablo Albilal |

Students talk at the buffet during the Middle East Cookout yesterday on the College Avenue campus. The event was sponsored by the Lebanese Society of Rutgers University and the Arabic Cultural Club from 12 to 6 p.m.

Despite the numbing cold, exotic music and the smell of grilled kebabs led more than 400 students to visit the "Flavors of the Middle East Cookout" yesterday next to Au Bon Pain on the College Avenue campus.

The cookout was a joint event between the Lebanese Society of Rutgers University and the Arabic Cultural Club meant to display Middle Eastern culture, food, dance and music as well as attract new membership. King Pita also catered the event and cooked lamb kebabs and falafel outside for the occasion.

"[The Arabic Cultural Club is] holding this event to spread knowledge," said events coordinator Lina Zamamiri, a Rutgers College junior. "The media's portrayal of Arabs is negative, and we want to shed light on our culture."

Amid Lebanese flags, School of Arts and Sciences sophomore George Saliba set up his DJ equipment, and his cold plate of grape leaves.

"I try to mix house music, hip-hop and Arabic music," Saliba said. "People know it as techno, but it's different."

Some presents held hands and broke out in dance when he played both Middle Eastern music, such as Amr Diab and Shakira, and traditional music called "debka."

Mohammed Sadi, a University College junior with Palestinian ancestry, has been to many events held solely by the club in the past.

"The Arabic Cultural Club started out small, and events like this show how it has grown," Sadi said. "The school is very supportive for sponsoring today's event. As an Arab-American, I feel proud of these clubs and their events."

Lebanese Society secretary Elias Chamoun, a School of Engineering sophomore, saw the event as a way to bridge the gap between the two clubs and to reach potential members.

"We are a very diverse club. You don't have to be Lebanese to be involved. We have a lot of events to teach others about our culture. As for this event, we are trying to get our name out, and we want first-year students to get involved," Chamoun said. "It's good that we can come together to make such a great event happen. We are setting aside politics and religion to focus on recruitment and student involvement."

Veronica Akaezuwa, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, is not from a Middle Eastern background but still saw the event as both enlightening and entertaining.

"My roommate is Egyptian, so the food is not new to me," Akaezuwa said. "We were just passing, and it looked interesting. The music and food really attracted me."

Sarah Hassanien, the public relations officer for the Arabic Cultural Club, said before the event was halfway over, the food meant for 400 people was finished.

"I think this was a great turnout," said Hassanien, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore. "Everyone who came was really enthusiastic, and people really did enjoy themselves."

Pablo Albilal

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