What does National Heritage Month mean to Americans of Arab descent? Almost four million Americans have Arab roots with ancestry spanning across 22 Arab countries. Some of these countries are Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Qatar, Yemen and more. All these countries are composed of a diversity of cultures, religions and dialects but are united through one language: Arabic. Every April since 2017, Americans of Arab descent have celebrated the rich and diverse culture as well as the immeasurable contributions made to the United States. Marking April as National Arab American Heritage Month (NAAHM), the QAIC team attended and participated in three significant events.
At Amazon HQ, co-founders of the Arab America Foundation gave remarks emphasizing the history of NAAHM and achievements of Arab Americans throughout the country. The story of how NAAHM began can be found through this link. In collaboration with Arab America Foundation and the Arabs for Amazon, the QAIC team participated in a fashion show to present Qatari folklore wear known as thobe al nashal. The word thobe literally means ‘garment’ and it is usually colorful and highly decorated with embroidery and gold. QAIC’s Programs Officer wore the traditional maroon of the Qatari flag which beautifully contrasted with the gold cultural headdress, earrings, bracelets and necklace. To perfect the look, her Qatari-style makeup complemented the floral henna designs on her hands. Artistic floral designs in henna represent happiness and joy.
Later that week, QAIC representatives attended the White House Open House honoring NAAHM. The White House is a sacred place for many reasons. It is the residence of the first family but also the people’s house where the most important and impacting decisions are made. Featured upon entry were portraits showcasing the achievements of Arab Americans in different fields such as military, medical, engineering, literature, arts and more! To conclude the White House tour, an Arab band played the oud, tabla (drum), violin and the flute, known as ney in Arabic. With a beautiful finish, the Star-Spangled Banner was recited in Arabic lyrics.
On the last day of April’s NAAHM, QAIC participated in Arab American Heritage Month Celebration in Montgomery County, amongst the first governing districts to officially recognize April as Arab American Heritage Month in 2014. In collaboration with the Middle Eastern American Advisory Group (MEAAG) and Office of Community Partnerships (OCP), QAIC provided a preview of its Arabic language and olfactory experience using spices, scents and Arabic alphabet letters. Guests were mesmerized by the fascinating ingredients used in Qatari cuisine such as loomi (dried lime), saffron, turmeric and rose. During the celebration, a Palestinian dance known as dabke was performed by Malikat Al Dabke which translates to Queens of Dance. This group is the first all-female dabke band in the United States. They danced energetically as the crowd enjoyed this Arab folk dance which is very popular in the Levantine countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan.
QAIC and the team were honored to participate, contribute, and educate in the NAAHM events this past April.