Leilet Omr: Exploring the diversity of the Middle East

At least 50 people experienced the cultural diversity of the Arab world at Leilet Omr on Sunday, Feb. 13. Northeastern University’s Arab Student Association (ArabSA) and the International Student & Scholar Institute (ISSI) sponsored the event, which was held at the Fenway Center in Boston.

Attendees explored the cultures of different countries – spanning from Saudi Arabia to Morocco – with a variety of food, dance and traditional music. Comedian Aron Kader, singer Salah Kurdi and belly dancer Zehara Nachash performed during the four-hour festival.

“It’s mostly showcasing Arab culture,” said Teresian Kahura, an attendee at the event and a member of the ISSI. “I liked the food and I liked the comedian. I found him very funny.”

Each year, the ISSI celebrates cultural diversity during a two-month series of festivities, known as Carnevale, which focuses on both traditional and contemporary music, art, poetry, dance, song, sports, fashion and food from various locations around the world. Northeastern student organizations, community groups, faculty, staff and alumni help the ISSI to plan as many as 20 events for the festival.

Participants explored the diversity of the Middle East.

Besides Leilet Omr, other Carnevale events this year include an Asian Lunar New Year celebration, Africa Week, International Idol, a Filipino culture show and a Venetian masquerade.

“I get to meet a lot of people,” said Nader Mokhtar, a student who attended Leilet Omr and has participated in other Carnevale events this year. “A lot of these people have become my lifelong friends, and they’re more like family than friends now. I love hanging out with them.”

Carnevale events are important because they allow students to explore their family heritage, said Catherine Ternes, secretary of ArabSA.

Attendees danced while Salah Kurdi and his band sang and played traditional Middle Eastern music.

“We think our heritage has something to contribute to the community,” she said at the event. “The Arab world encompasses so many countries. It’s not like we’re only having a Saudi Arabian night. A lot of kids have connections one way or another to the Middle East.”

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