Students get transported to the Middle East
Students took a free express trip to the Middle East Thursday afternoon. No passport or ticket was needed. The Middle East came to them.
The University Center Houston Room was transformed into a Middle Eastern café for the Council of Ethnic Organizations’ Arabian Nights. It was the first event of its kind thrown by CEO, said Eric Kao, the CEO member who organized the event.
About 320 students dined on dates, hummus and other free food as they listened to live music, visited student organization booths and watched a belly dancing show. Some students also took up the belly dancer’s offer to learn from her.
“I think belly dancing was very amazing,” said Trang Phan, an instructional technology doctoral candidate. “If I were to stay at home and watch it on YouTube, the feeling would be different.”
Giving students a sample of the Middle East was CEO’s goal.
“We have a really big Middle Eastern student body on campus, but I feel like there isn’t enough awareness about the culture or enough events to really raise awareness about that culture,” Kao said. “I thought this event would be a good idea to bring a need to the student body.”
Kao made sure the decorations reflected the Middle East while some student organizations, like the Saudi Students Organization and the Bangladesh Student Association, had booths during the event.
“We were representing what the Middle East is about,” said Randa Altaezi, Saudi Student Organization’s vice president. “CEO did a really good job.”
For some students like Nereyda Rubio, an English literature freshman, attending Arabian Nights was their first look at actual Middle Eastern culture.
“When I think of the Middle East, I think of Aladdin because he was the first person we were exposed to,” Rubio said. “They have food, music, a taste of what it would be. They have just enough to make people curious of what it would be.”
The presence of the Middle East was felt by the students. Marium Ravassipour, a biomedical engineering sophomore who is from Iran, said the event definitely reflected the Middle East she knows and she is glad students are seeing that.
“I’m glad we had it because it’s an eye opener,” Ravassipour said. “Usually when you think of the Middle East, it’s negative, but the Middle East is full of culture.”