Arab Poet Society {Community}

Last Thursday night I had the pleasure of attending an event presented by the Bellevue College Arabic Culture Student Association.

For one beautiful evening this relatively new organization managed to showcase three very diverse Arab voices.

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha has lived the experiences of first-generation American, immigrant, and expatriate. In the summer of 2014, her poem “Running Orders”—written from the voice of a Palestinian evacuee in Gaza—went viral online. Her heritage is Palestinian, Jordanian, and Syrian and she is fluent in Arabic. She has lived in and travelled across the Arab world, and many of her poems are inspired by the experience of crossing borders: cultural, geographic, political, borders between the present and the living past. She translated the screenplay for the award-winning film “When I Saw You”, written and directed by Annemarie Jacir in 2011. She has poems in Floating Bridge Review, Taos International Journal of Poetry and Art, and in the print anthology Being Palestinian, to be published by Oxford Press in 2015.

Rajaa A. Gharbi is an international painter, poet and socio-linguist. She was born and raised in Tunisia. A native writer and speaker of the Arabic language, Gharbi is the first North African English language poet in the United States to have been published and awarded public funding for literary work (1986-2006). She is the author of From Songs of a Grasshopper and Digging for Gems (books of poems, Kehna 2004 and 1993) and Blue Forces, a book of essays (Kehna 1998). She is also featured in the Encyclopedia of Arab American Artists, 2007 (Dr. Fayeq Oweis Heinemann 2007),We Have Crossed Many Rivers: New Poetry From Africa (an anthology edited by Dr. Diké Okoro 2012 Northwestern University, Evanston) and the Power and the Role of the Intellectual Symposium, Department of English Language and Literature, Cairo University, Egypt (Dr. Najib Redouane, California State University 2005).

She was a 2012 Achievement Award recipient at the international Arab Women Artists Biennale in Sousse, Tunisia, a 2006 Tunisia’s Hannibal Arts and Culture Grant award for an honor performance of her poems and retrospective exhibition in Washington DC. In 2007, she was nominated for the Seattle Mayor’s Art Award and the Horace Mann Achievement Award. Her work is profiled and exhibited around the world.

Maged Zaher is the author of THANK YOU FOR THE WINDOW OFFICE (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2012), THE REVOLUTION HAPPENED AND YOU DIDN’T CALL ME (Tinfish Press, 2012), and PORTRAIT OF THE POET AS AN ENGINEER (Pressed Wafer, 2009). His collaborative work with the Australian poet Pam Brown, FAROUT LIBRARY SOFTWARE, was published by Tinfish Press in 2007. His translations of contemporary Egyptian poetry have appeared in Jacket magazine and Banipal. He has performed his work at Subtext, Bumbershoot, the Kootenay School of Writing, St. Marks Project, Evergreen State College, and American University in Cairo, among other places. He is also the winner of the 2013 Genius Award Winner for Literature.

Even the Fall 2014 Arab 101 students got into the evening by  reciting “Ahino Ila Chobzi Omi.” I actually was impressed at how well they did.  You can tell a large number of them really did memorize the piece.  As many times as I’ve heard it, I’m not sure I could do the same!

Great job gals and guys!

Arab Festival 2013 {Community}

Recently, I had a booth at the Seattle Arab Festival, which occurred at the Seattle Center.  I was really excited to try out my new grid wall unit.

I had gotten eight walls at a sale this summer, along with about a dozen six inch hooks, four T-shirts holders and a lamp that was broken.  When I was at my monthly Crafting at Crossroads event, I mentioned to my friend Kacey (the super mom over at OnAWhimm) my excitement at using my new walls.  I also expressed concern at what to need to buy to be able to use the walls with my crafts.
So Kayce offers up her grid wall baskets to borrow.  How awesome is she?
I got to play around with layout of the wall for a few days.  I even payed my friends Laila, Oraib, and Jill in snacks and products to come over and re-arrange.  The best part of the brainstorm session was little adorable Maya, who just turned two, was reciting the animals on the Arabic Alphabet poster, in Arabic no less, in front of Jill, who spent over a year drawing them.  It was an amazing full circle moment.
After the grid wall unit got to where everyone was happy, I grabbed suitcases and packed it all with only a day to spare.  I didn’t end up using all the baskets and hooks, and also left two walls at home, but here is the finished product.
I’d love to hear what you think about it.
And if you want to come see it in person, consider this your reminder that the 7th Annual Homemade Harvest is coming up second Saturday in November.
Stop by A Crafty Arab on Pinterest to see how you can purchase these products for sale.






Startalk 2013 Arabic Camp {Community}

This past week I had the pleasure of teaching Arabic art to the Seattle Public School Startalk 7 Camp, held June 20, 2013 – July 3, 2013.


This year we were in a new school, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, that was really beautiful. It was in the Atlantic neighborhood of Seattle and had breathtaking views of valleys and green.


I was pleasantly surprised to find we had 22 kids enrolled in two classrooms.  I had the same budget to cover supplies, instead of the five children we had last year.  I choose paper crafts to remain inexpensive.


I was also told that due to the overwhelming success of the cross cultural exchange with the Chinese classes, the teachers have asked that I return for another Arabic lesson in their classroom also.  I was excited at the prospect of teaching in the Chinese language about Arabic art, however, my joy turned to panic to find a craft for an additional 50+ children, that would last for half an hour divided over three classrooms.  Again I turned to paper crafts. Here is how our week went.




On my first day in the Arabic language classrooms, we talked about Eid and made lanterns with vellum inserts.

They were miniature version of the Eid lanterns we made last year.

I was so impressed with what the children created.

The next day, the children made paper dolls from the Arab world.

I brought in ribbons, fabrics, sequins, colored pens, hole punches, cardstock, and all kinds of other fun things.

At the start of the lesson I showed them various outfits, including men’s galabeya and children’s dresses.

The final day, I went in to teach the Chinese kids about Arabic art and culture.  We also talked about Arabic clothes, but their lesson also included other information about the Arab world, such as the number of Arab countries (22), what is Ramadan (a month of fasting for Muslims) and how we say hello (Marhaba) and thank you (Shukran) in Arabic.  With that final lesson, we created Shukran cards.

These cards had a little Egyptian man, wearing a galabeya and a fez hat.

Inside the cards, which of course open the correct left to right direction, we wrote the word Shukran in Arabic.

This camp is turning into one of my favorite events for teaching Arabic art for kids in the Seattle area.  I really hope they ask me to teach it again in 2014.


Oops, I almost forgot the craft the little ones made on the first day.  Some of them had a hard time with the lanterns so they created these beautiful Eid stars to hang from the ceiling of the classroom. We used Popsicle sticks and sequins.

Stop by A Crafty Arab on Pinterest to find tutorials to more fun crafts.