MENA Day exposes students to Middle East and North African cultures


Nadia Belfort

Sophomore Aly Tahoun and freshman Maialen Alawam play the drums and sing middle-eastern tunes outside the cafeteria Friday, March 10.

Noah Kesselman, Features Editor

Students gathered Friday, March 10 to experience Middle Eastern and North African cultures through speakers, presentations, and food during Middle East North Africa (MENA) Day. 

“MENA is a place with so much food, art, and culture and we wanted to share that through this event,” said senior Nadim Saouli, an organizer with senior Yahel Tamir. “For me, it is such an important opportunity to introduce my identity to the school community, and allows me to feel heard.”

According to Tamir, the goal of Friday’s events was to expose students to new narratives about the Middle East and North Africa and present the complexities of the region. “Although I feel like there’s been progress made in getting more narratives from the Middle East region, there still hasn’t been enough,” said Tamir. “Our goal through this event is to amplify those lived experiences, and allow classmates to see that the region is an incredibly diverse place, just like this country.”

The day kicked off with a presentation during c-block featuring Nadirah Mansour, Assistant Curator of Islamic Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, titled, “Understanding MENA Through Art.” The presentation focused on Islamic art and included a Q&A session between Mansour and sophomore Aly Tahoun, along with Saouli.

“Our school is so diverse in so many ways. I appreciate the opportunity to hear from outside speakers we might not otherwise meet, as well as our own students, about history and culture,” said history teacher Max Roberts. “It’s valuable to hear the range of student perspectives and experiences, especially when students might not learn about their classmates’ backgrounds on a day-to-day basis,” added Roberts.

In WIN block, students discussed the recent tragic earthquakes in Turkey and Syria as well as fundraising opportunities to help survivors. The discussion was facilitated by Center for Civic Engagement Adviser Claudia Wu. 

During second and third lunch, students organized a table with Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Students and staff enjoyed free food samples including hummus, Turkish Börek, and homemade Baklava.

F-block featured a presentation by Jana Amin, an Egyptian-American activist focused on female representation and activism in the Middle East and North Africa, while a student panel was held during g-block. Panelists discussed common misconceptions about the region and shared important cultural traditions.

“It is so important that we have events like this, because although it is only one day, it is often the only time our peers have to learn about MENA identity,” said Tamir. “Days like this make me confident that North will continue to make progress in getting our voices and experiences out there.”