Persian rugs, traditional ottomans, and Iranian artifacts complemented the UNH Wildcats logo above the stage, as UNH’s Middle Eastern Cultural Association (MECA) successfully transformed the MUB’s Strafford Room into a culture-filled, mystic Middle Eastern destination.
Middle Eastern music echoed in the room as members of MECA finished setting up. A line of students formed outside of the door behind the balloons and a gold fringe curtain.
Both students and faculty filled the room throughout the night, joining members of MECA in an evening of socializing and learning about Middle Eastern cultures through henna tattoos, belly dancers, the Arabic language, and of course, delicious cuisine.
MECA’s goal in hosting the event was to spread the word about the organization. They recently revised their name in order for the organization to be more inclusive to all students.
“We want to ensure that students feel that they can join the organization without having to be from the Middle East,” said MECA member and Arabic student, Maddie Pierce. “We also wanted to inform participants about some interesting cultural aspects of the Middle East in a fun and engaging atmosphere.”
“I was thrilled that so many people attended the event outside of Arabic classes and our organization,” Pierce said.
The henna artist was the most popular portion of the event, according to Pierce, as there was a consistent line throughout the night.
Six large circular tables and six smaller stand-up tables were decorated with red and gold tablecloths and gold confetti stars.
All of the seats were filled within the first half hour of the doors opening, even when people stood in line for food, henna tattoos, or to get their names spelt in Arabic.
The night’s meal included a buffet-style dinner from Habibi Mediterranean Cafe in Portsmouth.
The free dinner included hummus, pita bread, stuffed grape leaves, falafel, basmati rice, couscous, salad, and special house mousaka, all of which were prepared by the cafe.
Falafel proved to be the most popular food item. Two plates, 90 pieces in total, disappeared quickly.
Senior Lecturer in Arabic Ruwa Majid-Pokorny greeted and thanked everyone for coming throughout the night. She asked how people heard about the event and why they decided to come. MECA members all agreed that the goal of the event was to bring attention to the Arabic department and the organization.
Belly dancers from Zabel Belly Dance in Dover joined the night’s festivities and performed the ancient art of belly dancing on and off the stage, dancing around the audience and offering on-the-spot lessons.
The “ZaBellies,” a student troupe from the studio, brought the traditional spirit of belly dancing to UNH. The dance is considered to be a social folk dance, but also a historical art performance.
UNH students attended the event for free and non-student tickets could be purchased for five dollars at the MUB ticket office. The event was funded by the student activity fee.