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Arabic Culture Takes Over Deerfield’s Dining Hall

We experienced Arabic music, calligraphy, and Henna during “Arabian Nights” in the dining hall, an annual event organized by Arabic teacher Samar Moushabeck and students of Arabic. Ms. Moushabeck, born and raised in Amman, Jordan, integrated authentic Arabic foods and drinks from North Africa, Lebanon, and more into the dining hall’s menu on Friday, May 11 2012.

Jamie Haddad ’12, of Arabic heritage and currently in Arabic 1, explains how Arabic students and herself have benefitted from the night: “It changed the experience of an Arabic learner. You can learn food from a textbook but you can’t taste, see or feel it until it’s put in front of you.”

Options included Falafel with Tahini dressing, Kibbi (fried meatballs with onions and pine nuts), marinated chicken in lemon and olive oil, and drinks such as Qamariddin, a juice prepared from dried apricots.

Though the many exotic and tasty treats seemed to be reason enough to host an “Arabian Night,” the main purpose was so “everyone at the school will have the opportunity to experience at least one aspect of the Arabic speaking world,” said Ms. Moushabeck.

A belly-dance workshop was offered to those interested and there was a live belly dancing and music performance by Layaali, a Massachusetts based traditional Arabic music ensemble that Ms. Moushabeck was excited to share with the community.

Ms. Moushabeck later reflected, “Pretty much everything presented that evening has been a part of my life at some point in time. I still use Henna in my hair, listen to Arabic music and prepare similar foods at home.”

“It was great to see how excited people were, everyone loved the food and had a new take on Arabic customs here.” said Haddad ’12.

The night was also an opportunity for the students taking Arabic to “share their knowledge of the Arabic speaking world with their community,” Ms. Moushabeck described. Emphasizing the importance of connecting with other Arabic students, Choate Arabic students were invited “to join us and help build a larger community of Arabic language learners beyond our school,” she explained. It was a night to set aside the differences and rivalry between Deerfield and Choate, and experience a distant culture with fellow peers.