GVSU tastes the Arab world

Ryan Jarvi

Arab culture is coming to Grand Valley State University through food, music, dancing and trivia during the Taste of the Arab World event hosted by the Arab Culture Club.

“The Middle East plays a prominent role in today’s world, so anyone who has exposure to it better understand it will only benefit from that,” said Abby VanderWagen, a junior majoring in information systems with a minor in Arabic. “We may be living in Allendale, but it will be nice for one night to feel like we’re on the other side of the world.”

VanderWagen acts as treasurer of the ACC at GVSU and organized the finances for the event.

“The great thing about this kind of event is people will get to try authentic dishes, learn new dances, experience the enchanting Arabic music and meet people and new friends of all different types,” she said, adding that guests can expect a lot of food and dancing.

“Our favorite dance is the dabkeh, so if they do not know how to dabkeh before Taste, they definitely will know how to after,” VanderWagen said.

Rachael Luce, president of the ACC, said the night gives an appreciation of the Arab culture.

“It’s basically just enjoying the culture,” Luce said. “Getting a taste of a culture that’s really vibrant and not often experienced here. I hope people enjoy it and it’s something that they will remember.”

The event will open up with a short fun-facts interactive trivia session to get people involved. Following the games, guests will get down to business and be redirected toward the full buffet, which will offer authentic food from the Middle East and North Africa.

Majd Al-Mallah, department chair of Modern Languages and Literatures, serves as the faculty adviser for the ACC and said the event has been around for more than 10 years with the goal of educating the community through cultural exposure.

“Cultural awareness is key to a more diverse society and also to a deeper appreciation of both similarities and differences,” Al-Mallah said. “Taste is an event planned for the larger campus community, where people can encounter the Arab culture through forms of artistic expression and through a venue that brings people together.”

Jad Soudah, a disc jockey and live band that has participated at the event in previous years, will be on hand again to provide musical entertainment for the night. For guests who may want a temporary tattoo, there will be an artist drawing designs with henna.

Luce has been a member of the ACC for about two years, which she said she fell into after studying abroad.

“We don’t live in a vacuum,” she said. “There are so many cultures; a lot of the times I think we get stuck in our own ways and our own customs. Life gets interesting when you bring in outside cultures, and Arab culture is just so different.”

Vanderwagen said the value of understanding other cultures is crucial.

“It makes you a global citizen of the world,” she said. “Every culture has something unique and interesting about it, so learning these things will only enrich and enlighten your own life.”

For trivia buffs out there, Al-Mallah offers one fun-fact that might be a part of the trivia session: Last year, Taste of the Arab World won the Outstanding Cultural Program award from the Office of Student Life.

Taste of the Arab World is free and open to the public. The event will be held tonight from 7:30–10 p.m. in the Grand River room of the Kirkhof Center.
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