Event unites Middle Eastern arts, cultures

Life at Yale tends to settle into a routine. It’s all too easy to go to similar parties every weekend, to listen to the same type of music, to eat food we think we’ve seen the day before.

But one of the greatest potential sources of excitement and reinvigoration is the opportunity to look beyond ourselves — not only past our group of friends and our classes, but outside the boundaries of nationality and culture. As part of the planning staff of the Middle Eastern-themed “A Night at the Kasbah,” scheduled for Feb. 17, our team seeks to bring a glimpse of Middle Eastern culture to our fellow students and to open our own minds in the process.

Institutionally, Yale has been reaching out increasingly to the rest of the world in recent years. President Levin’s ties to China are burgeoning, and the administration has been exploring possible collaborations with Middle Eastern countries. However, it is still important for those who won’t be able to go to China or win a fellowship to study abroad in the Middle East to experience aspects of cultures outside our own, for however brief a moment. And here, classes and newspapers and even the Daily Show do not suffice. When having fun and enjoying oneself are the primary purpose of an event, as they are for Kasbah, the cultural and educational aspects fit naturally into each Yalie’s experience.

As the winner of the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee’s campuswide event funding contest, Kasbah has set itself the goal of providing students with a wholly unique environment. The Davenport Dining Hall will be filled with a mixture of Middle Eastern songs and Western pop music, student belly dancers from the Yale Bellydance Society, baklava, Moroccan tea, and cultural tables from each of the participating cultural organizations. Nor is the Kasbah experience limited to one night: Table tents have been circulated in order to give our fellow students historical and educational background on the cultural aspects they’ll see at the party. By no means does Kasbah provide an entire portrait of the Middle East; it is merely a glimpse, a chance for Yale students to have fun while embracing elements of different ethnicities and societies.

Moreover, a major purpose of our event was to bring different cultural organizations together. The members of the Arab Students Association, the Yale Friends of Israel and the Yale Friends of Turkey share an appreciation for the music, food and art of the Middle East, and Kasbah has allowed us to focus on our commonalities. We’ve also benefited from the planning and marketing abilities of the UOFC, Marketing at Yale, AIESEC and Sankofa. There is a natural tendency for Yale student groups, staffed by passionate but sometimes overcommitted members, to focus exclusively on the group’s activities to the exclusion of the rest of campus. The UOFC’s competition, which explicitly required at least three co-sponsoring organizations, has allowed us to work together and learn from one another in a way that might have been difficult otherwise. According to Grace Lu, a member of the Yale Bellydance Society and a principal organizer of the event, “In coming up with the project idea, we saw tremendous potential in ‘A Night at the Kasbah’ to bring various organizations to the same place in an effort to provide Yalies a fun learning experience.”

It’s time for Yale students to work together and bring slices of the world to ourselves and the people around us. So let’s enjoy a brief look at different and fascinating elements of Middle Eastern music, food and culture, even if only for a night — “A Night at the Kasbah.”

Rachel Bayefsky is a sophomore in Morse College and co-president of the Yale Friends of Israel. Saned Raouf is a freshman in Berkeley College and vice president of the Arab Students Association. Aysegul Altintas is a senior in Ezra Stiles College and president of the Yale Friends of Turkey.

Comments