East meets West at sixth annual Arab-American Festival

Plenty of pineapple: Saleh Hamdan of Sido Restaurant in Manhattan shows off a heaping bowl of tasty fruit at the bazaar, held in Shore Road Park at 79th Street.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Arab-American Brooklynites threw down their differences and came together in Shore Road Park for their yearly bazaar on July 8.

The sixth annual Arab-American Festival featured music, craftwork, and cuisine from across the Middle East — all of it courtesy of Bay Ridge’s own Arab-American Association of New York, headquartered on Fifth Avenue between 71st and 72nd streets.

“We had people ranging from selling sweets and souveneirs to dresses and headscarves,” said the Association’s Christophe Jospe, who helped organize the event, and who added that the group booked singers and dancers from many different Middle Eastern nations.

Jospe said that the idea behind the festival was to create a sense of Arab-American solidarity, and help the community see past national differences.

“The idea is unity, not favoring one nationality versus another,” said Jospe.

But Jospe also said the event is all about families — and for that reason, the bazaar featured face-painting, rides, and flag-making tables for the kids.

Emen Tabit, 17, who volunteers at the Arab-American Association and attended the festival, echoed Jospe’s emphasis on creating a sense of common identity among Middle Easterners of all backgrounds.

“A big problem in the community is that a lot of people only think about the country they’re from. This is a day that we can come together as one,” Tabit said.

But for Tabit, the event was also about connecting with the other ethnic groups in Bay Ridge, some of whom might not view their Arab-American neighbors positively.

“People who live around there walk by, and they hear music and they see people dancing, and they lose their preconceived notions and see we’re all people,” said Tabit.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at wbredderman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WillBredderman

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