The UNC Persian Cultural Society hosted an event called 1,001 Nights on Thursday night in celebration of Middle Eastern culture. The showcase took place in the Great Hall of the Frank Porter Graham Student Union and featured the Afghan Student Association, Turkish Student Association and Students for Justice in Palestine.
Hilda Tajalli, co-president of the Persian Cultural Society, likened the event to a FallFest for Middle Eastern student organizations.
“Because many of the Middle Eastern organizations are so small on campus, we want people to have the chance to be exposed to them,” she said.
About 150 people explored the booths lining the Great Hall. Traditional clothing, books and other cultural objects were on display alongside a variety of foods, including Afghan green tea and dolmeh — stuffed grape leaves — provided by the society.
The society held the first and most recent 1,001 Nights expo in 2012.
Afghan Student Association member Medina Sadat, a first-generation American who has deep ties to her Afghan heritage, said UNC students often get an inaccurate image of Afghanistan.
“The countries represented here are some of the most misunderstood by Americans,” Sadat said. “I hope this event can show a different side that many people don’t get to see.”
Layla Quran, president of Students for Justice in Palestine, said the goal was to make Middle Eastern culture accessible to the public in a friendly, welcoming environment.
“The average UNC student doesn’t hear about countries like Palestine on a daily basis,” she said.
Freshman Lana Abutabanja appreciated the way the event incorporated a lot of different aspects of the cultures of the countries represented.
“The performers showed a lot of passion for their culture,” she said. “The mix of modern and classical elements was very interesting.”
Sociology Ph.D. candidate Ali Kadivar opened the event with a performance of the classical Persian folk song, “The Dialogue of Shams and Rumi.” He was followed by a traditional bandari dance performed by six members of the Persian Cultural Society, as well as a modern take on a dabke dance performed by six members of Students for Justice in Palestine.
The 1,001 Nights event was free to attend. It was paid for by the Persian studies program as well as a benefit night held at Kipos Greek Taverna on Franklin Street.
Tajalli said she hopes attendees left with an enriched perspective of the Middle East and perhaps even an interest in joining these organizations or studying the region in the classroom.
“It’s important to consider the cultures that go into the melting pot that is America,” she said.?