Culture and community took centre stage at the Middle Eastern Students’ Association’s latest event, “A Night in the Middle East”, last Friday in the CCT Building. Coming on the heels of last year’s Arab Culture Day, this cultural event from MESA highlighted the art, history, and traditions of the Middle East with high spirits and a dazzling array of colours.

The night began with an opening reception in the CCT atrium, filled with an eager crowd of attendees who were offered refreshments and a chance to chat before the show. Tables were lined with artwork, textiles, and other cultural artifacts from various regions of the Middle East. There was even a station for traditional henna tattooing. The MESA executives and event volunteers wore traditional outfits and created a warm and welcoming atmosphere for those interested in buying tickets to the event, learning about the culture of the Middle East, or enjoying snacks.

About an hour later, the doors of CCT 1080 were opened and the performance portion of the night began. One thing that set this event apart from some of UTM’s other cultural offerings was the focus on community. This wasn’t just a night for UTM students; friends, family, and community members of all ages came out to the show, and the buzz of conversation and laughter in the room certainly showed the enthusiasm for the event.

This community focus was evident in the first performance of the night, which featured dancers from Jabal Al-Zaytoon. Entertaining the crowd with a lively traditional dance, the act included young people of all ages and evoked a warm response from the audience who cheered on the performers as they exited the stage.

The night’s line-up also included poetry by Frishta Bastan, a cultural fashion show, dance performances by members of the Persian and Afghan Students’ Association, and a variety of other acts and speakers.

As printed in the program for “A Night in the Middle East”, MESA aims to “[blur] the culture and ethnic boundaries to enrich the UTM student body and to create an open environment”. The event was a good opportunity for students to celebrate, learn about, and feel welcomed into cultural traditions.