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Those in Portland with an Arab heritage have resumed sharing their music, food, and culture at Oaks Park. With VIDEO!

DAVID F. ASHTON - Moments after his performance begins, charismatic entertainer Raid Alasmar already had groups of people up and dancing. The combination of its being the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, that the weather was lovely, and its location being nonprofit and historic Oaks Amusement Park, made for perfect conditions for the 11th annual "Arab Mahrajan" on September 4th. (We'll share a video, if you missed it.)

"A 'Mahrajan' is a celebration — and what we're doing here is celebrating the culture and the diversity of Arab Americans here in our community," smiled Arab American Cultural Center of Oregon (AACCO) President Nadia Dahab. "2019 was our last time here at Oaks Park; we had to take two years off, due to the COVID pandemic of course.

DAVID F. ASHTON - Belly dancer Bevin Victoria charmed the crowd with her performance of Dance Orientale. "Now, to see this festival again flourishing like this is so epic and exciting for us at AACCO -- which works to plan it," Dahab enthused. "Here it is, early afternoon, and there's more people here than we've seen in years past!"

"I think it's the excitement of getting to see everyone, to get together and dance, to shop among our vendors, and to smell and taste the authentic food here — it's what everybody is really excited about," observed Dahab.

After the festival was over, AACCO co-founder and Board Member Rima Ghandour told THE BEE that they estimated that more than 4,000 people attended this year.

DAVID F. ASHTON - Preparing more servings of aromatic, authentic Shawarma was Namim Najm. A highlight for many was the performance at the Oaks Outdoor Pavilion of singer and songwriter Raid Alasmar. Accompanied by his "one man band", Amir, Alasmar's captivating performance style had groups of line dancers swirling around before the end of his first song. Throughout the afternoon, Alasmar kept the party going as fresh dancers came in to replace those exhausted from having taken their turn.

There were also more featured performances from other Arab musicians, dancers, and poets..

"Ours is a diverse community; 22 countries are part of the Arab world," explained Dahab. "Arab people here at this celebration each have their own story that they bring here from different places around the world.

"The culture that we bring and elevate here at this Mahrajan — including the music, the dancing, the food, and the relationships — these are the common threads that bring us all together."

DAVID F. ASHTON - Welcoming guests to the 2022 Arab Mahrajan at Oaks Amusement Park are volunteer Sarah Qirem, Arab American Cultural Center of Oregon Secretary Mona Albabtain, and board member Nada Maisse. Observing that many non-Arab visitors had attended, Dahab remarked, "Our goal here is to create an inclusive place. Part of that is sharing with everyone the diversity and richness of our heritage in our cultures, and to help people understand it.

"At the same time, this is also all about developing connections among themselves, and all people here who live in this area. This festival brings people from all backgrounds together — in a joyful and positive way that only this kind of event can do."

Learn more about the Arab American Cultural Center of Oregon, a nonprofit organization, at their website — www.araboregon.org

And, to get a taste of this year's Arab Fest for yourself, here's a brief BEE video -- youtu.be/WyximQnqyG4


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