Middle Eastern Heritage Month comes to Cuyamaca College in April with a menu of cultural events highlighted by an all-day Syriac House Exhibition and an afternoon theatrical performance of storytelling and music reminiscent of a historic Baghdad coffee house.
“Cuyamaca College has a very diverse Middle Eastern community in terms of ethnicity, nationality and religion and we are using this opportunity to highlight the community’s rich cultures and traditions,” said Aklas Sheai, an Arabic language instructor who is organizing many of the month’s events.
- The Syriac House Exhibition on April 3 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the second floor of the Student Center. Art, antiques and collectibles will be on display. Presented by the Middle Eastern Students Club and sponsored by Cuyamaca College Student Affairs, Engagement & Equity, Associated Student Government and Our Mother of Perpetual Help Syriac Catholic Church.
- Cuyamaca College’s World Languages Department hosts a leadership presentation for Middle Eastern immigrants on April 8 at 12:30 p.m. in Room I-207 of the Student Center.
- Art instructor and former university professor Qusay Al Zubaidi will display his postmodern creations on April 10 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Room I-207 of the Student Center. Presented by the Middle Eastern Students Club and sponsored by Cuyamaca College Student Affairs, Engagement & Equity and Associated Student Government.
- A discussion titled Arabic Culture & Arab-American Contributions to American Society is scheduled for April 11 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. in Room I-207 of the Student Center. Presented by Hanaa Kassas, who teaches at both Cuyamaca College and San Diego State University.
- An April 15 College Hour, Chaldean Culture & Traditions, with live music, dancing and traditional food, at 1 p.m. on the Grand Lawn. Presented by the Middle Eastern Students Club and sponsored by Cuyamaca College Student Affairs, Engagement & Equity and Associated Student Government.
- The World Languages Department presents singer Mariam Mouawad, who attended the Lebanese National Higher Conservatory of Music and now serves as an Arabic teaching assistant at San Diego State University. Mouawad will be performing April 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the Samuel M. Ciccati Theatre.
- Khan Jghan, scheduled for April 24 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in the Samuel M. Ciccati Theatre. Khan Jghan is said to have been the first coffee house in Baghdad in the early 20th century, and it would grow into a popular local gathering place, a place that hosted a storyteller named Al-Qasakhoon, who was considered a celebrity because of his ability to entertain people for hours and guide them with words of wisdom. Khan Jghan will include musicians, storytelling, and more in a setting reminiscent of the historic coffee house. This event is presented by Aklas Sheai and is sponsored by the Middle Eastern Students Club, Cuyamaca College Student Affairs, Engagement & Equity and Associated Student Government.
- A screening of The Arab Americans on April 29 at 12:30 p.m. in the Digital Theatre. This 2017 film details the contributions made by immigrants from the Middle East, North Africa and the Arabian peninsula have made in the United States. Presented by the Middle Eastern Students Club and followed by a discussion, this event is sponsored by Cuyamaca College Student Affairs, Engagement & Equity and Associated Student Government.
The month also includes a reading from the book Orientalism by Edward Said from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. every Wednesday in the Student Center Quad. Leading the Heritage Book Club readings starting on April 3 is sociology instructor Rachel Jacob Almeida. In the 1978 book, the author defines Orientalism as the West's patronizing representations of the East.
East San Diego County has the second-largest Iraqi population in the country, behind only the greater Detroit area, and Cuyamaca College has been holding special spring events celebrating Arabic culture for years. Previous celebrations included “Henna and Music” and an elaborate, five-act production of “Scheherazade: Tell Me a Story,” an original take on the Middle Eastern fable of Scheherazade and the Arabian Nights.