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Organization of Arab Student celebrates culture in bi-annual hafle

The Organization of Arab Students will celebrate Arab culture Friday evening with a night of dancing and other festivities at its Autumn Hafle at the Ohio Union.

The hafle –– the Arabic word for party –– is intended to be a way for Arab and Middle Eastern to come together, as well as an invitation for other students to learn more about the Arab culture.

OAS was formed with the goal of organizing similar events centering around inclusivity and entertainment for students looking for a sense of community at Ohio State.

Zouheir Hayek, president of the organization and a third-year in business operations, said, “they wanted an organization or club for Arabs and other people from the Middle East that go to Ohio State. They wanted it to be an organization that wasn’t religious or political and just a pure cultural organization for fun.”

The hafle that OAS hosts biannually is only a small representation of the organization’s purpose on campus, Hayek said. Many Arab students come to Ohio State without a sense of community or network of friends, so the organization works to ease their transitions into the university by offering new students a welcoming group.

Hayek said being part of OAS has helped him transition into life in the United States after moving to Columbus from Syria.  

“Honestly, for me, it’s always nice to have someone who kind of gets you,” he said. “Especially with the language. A lot of people that move here don’t really speak English that well, so they need friends. It’s impossible to make friends if you don’t speak the language. When they only speak Arabic, they come to us for comfort, and we are very inclusive.”

The hafle will feature traditional dabke dancing at 9 p.m., as well as food from the Ohio Union.

Jafar Shehadeh,  a board member of OAS and a fourth-year in political science, said dabke is a traditional Middle Eastern dance that has many variations depending on the country and is often a staple of big celebrations, such as weddings. During Friday’s event, all attendees are encouraged to partake in the dance.

“[Dabke] happens at big celebrations like weddings and big parties like the one we are throwing tomorrow,” Shehadeh said. “It’s a nice thing because it includes everybody from professional dancers to the ones who have never done it before in their life.”

OAS also will provide a map of the Middle East decorated with photos and descriptions of famous and culturally important people from each country or region. The idea of the map is to celebrate the success and culture of the home countries of Arab students.

The OAS biannual hafle will be held in the Great Hall meeting room on the first floor of the Ohio Union at 7:30 p.m Friday. Food will be served at 8:00 p.m. Admission is free.

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