A blog by the staff and participants of Al-Bustan, which is dedicated to teaching and presenting Arab culture through the arts and language. This provides a forum for us to regularly share the happenings and reflections on all things Al-Bustan-related.
Nostalgia for Cultural Heritage: Spending a Day at Al-Bustan Camp
My name is Lisa Ibrahim and I moved to the US from Palestine
a year and a half ago.
As I felt nostalgic for my culture, I began to look for
organizations that do work in Arabic culture. Nowadays social media makes it
easy for us to find the information we seek, that’s how I found the non-profit organization: Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture! I
contacted Hazami , the founder and executive director, and she was very kind to
invite me to spend a day at Al-Bustan Camp.
Honestly, I didn't know what to expect yet I went there with
an open heart. I was excited to find a very positive environment that offers
classes to kids in: Arabic, drama, art, science and music. The theme was none
other than: UmmKulthum! Like most people who are from the Middle East, she is
one of my icons! I was excited to discover that she will be the focus of camp and couldn't help myself from thinking: “Let’s see what these kids
are going to learn about the diva…Yalla... “
The diversity of the students was amazing, they were Arabs
and non-Arabs which fulfills the mission of Al-Bustan: to reach out to all and
spread the Arabic culture regardless of your origin.
The tour began with the Arabic class, where I got to see
students learning the “Raa’” and “Zein” letters, they were about 5 to 7 years
old and were able to pronounce the letters clearly. Then I went to the drama
class, where the teacher asked some students to perform a play discussing their thoughts of having a baby (UmmKulthum). What shocked me were the answers from
the young kids, one of the boys in the class said: “I want the baby to be a boy
to provide for the family”! And one of the girls said: “at least we are having
one”! That was a striking moment for me, as I got to see how young kids were able
to relate and understand the views of Middle Eastern culture tracing back
to the era of UmmKulthum.
Camper Islam's interpretation of
Umm Kulthum's iconic image
After that I got to check out the art class where I saw a room
filled with paintings that students made of UmmKulthum. It was great to see
how they perceived her through their imagination and their choice of vivid
colors in her portrayal. Most of the paintings were unbelievably reflective of
the diva in an amazing way, one of them stood out to me as
it looked like Elvis Presley!! It’s wonderful to see how far kids’ imagination
The most touching moment for me came in the music
class. I was amazed to see students who
were dancing to the beats of the drums, then singing songs from UmmKulthum's repertoire in a beautiful harmonious way. As a music lover that was the
highlight of my day!
Young campers learning verses from Ghanili Shiwayi
and other Umm Kulthum songs
As someone who is
looking from the outside, seeing
non Arabs and Arabs who are living in the US, getting the opportunity to
experience such a rich culture and take part of it , made me realize how
Al-Bustan is contributing to the shift of people’s consciousness towards Arabic culture through art, language and music.
Al-Bustan made me understand the importance of its mission
and gave me the passion to explore an opportunity to take a part in it. I feel
a desire to do my best to take Al-Bustan’s message and spread it out to as many
people as possible in order to bring a positive perception of Arabic
culture in the U.S as well as around the world!