Arab American Heritage Celebration brings flavor and fun to Allison dining hall


Photo courtesy of Northwestern Dining

Students serve themselves knafeh, one of the desserts offered by Al Sham Sweets at Allison dining hall on Thursday night.

Samantha Powers, Assistant Campus Editor

Communication sophomore Rama Darayyad, who is Palestinian, walked into Allison dining hall for dinner Thursday and was unexpectedly reminded of home. 

Northwestern Dining hosted an Arab American Heritage Celebration Thursday night. The event featured popular Arab dishes in all the dining halls, desserts by Al Sham Sweets and a dance performance by Al Salam Dabke at Allison dining hall.

The menu included dishes such as shawarma spiced PAOW, fattoush salad and beef tagine. The dessert offerings included harissa and knafeh. 

“People are able to get a little taste of our culture,” Darayyad said. “It’s the last thing I would have expected, coming to Allison dining hall on a random Thursday.”

NU Dining partnered with the Middle Eastern and North African Student Association to plan the menu and programming, said Sophia Bamiatzis, a district marketing manager for Compass Group.

“We greatly appreciate their expertise in helping us create programming that celebrated and honored their culture,” Bamiatzis said.

Weinberg freshman Jessica Dean said she enjoyed the food, especially the Mediterranean mejadra and beef tagine. 

Dean, who is Polish, said Polish dishes rely heavily on potatoes and sour cream, so the evening’s menu felt new to her.

“It was a very cohesive dining experience,” Dean said. “Personally, I don’t eat this ever, really, and now I like it. I’m broadening my horizons.”

Weinberg freshman Varun Popli said the tagine reminded him of the food he typically enjoys when he visits relatives in Dubai.

He said he also enjoyed the Arab music blasting through the dining hall, calling the event a welcome change from the usual dining experience.

“Oftentimes, with dining hall food, it can kind of feel like you’re eating the same bland stuff over and over again, and this is a little different,” Popli said. “There are a lot of spices, flavors, sauces, so it’s fun.”

A table set up in the middle of Allison featured Mancala, a strategy-based marble game which some have traced to ancient Egypt. Members of the MENA Student Association taught other students how to play. 

Bamiatzis said students also made the event interactive by joining the dabke dance at the end, which showcased intricate footwork in a combination of circle and line dancing. Darayyad said it “means a lot” to her that NU Dining arranged the event.

“It makes Northwestern feel like more of an inclusive space, especially because the Arab American population is already so small,” Darayyad said. 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @SQPowers04

Related Stories:

Arabic minor to launch in Fall Quarter

NU Arabic professors implement a more globalized teaching approach

MENA Student Association hosts Arab Expressions poetry night