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  • Writer's pictureRodrigo Baena

A Vibrant Celebration of Culture: Our Experience at the Oregon Arab Festival

Updated: Mar 27

a woman looking towards a tunisian flag
My wife Dunya in front of the Tunisian Flag

As I stepped into the lively atmosphere of the Oaks Park in Portland on September 3rd, 2023, I was instantly engulfed in the rich tapestry of Arab culture at the Oregon Arab Festival. This annual event had been on our radar for quite some time, and my wife Dunya and I couldn't have been more excited to immerse ourselves in a day filled with music, dance, delectable cuisine, and captivating traditions.

The heartbeat of the festival was undoubtedly the live music. The melodies and rhythms emanating from the stage were like a siren's call, drawing us closer and closer. As we settled into a prime spot in the crowd, we found ourselves swaying to the enchanting tunes that filled the air. The fusion of traditional and contemporary Arab music was nothing short of mesmerizing, and it was evident that the performers poured their hearts and souls into each note they played.

People dancing together
People dancing together

One of the most enchanting moments of the festival was when a group of festival-goers formed a circle and began a synchronized dance. It was a beautiful sight to behold as people of all ages and backgrounds held hands, moving in perfect harmony with the music. The unity and sense of community were palpable, and we couldn't resist joining in on the joyful dance. My wife Dunya, being half Tunisian, felt an even deeper connection to the dance and the culture surrounding it.

Of course, no cultural celebration would be complete without indulging in some traditional cuisine. The aroma of Iraqi and Arab food wafted through the air, making our mouths water with anticipation. We sampled a variety of dishes, each bursting with authentic flavors and spices. The shawarma was succulent, the falafel was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, and the tabbouleh was a refreshing delight. However, the highlight of our culinary adventure was undoubtedly the pistachio mini donuts - a sweet treat that left our taste buds dancing with joy.

As we strolled through the festival grounds, we stumbled upon a talented woman creating intricate henna designs on the hands of eager participants. The artistry and precision with which she worked were truly remarkable. Dunya, feeling a deep connection to her Tunisian heritage, couldn't resist the temptation and had her own hands adorned with a beautiful henna pattern, a cherished souvenir of the day.

One of the most exciting aspects of the Oregon Arab Festival was the grape leaf competition. Festival attendees had the opportunity to showcase their culinary skills by preparing grape leaves stuffed with delicious fillings. It was incredible to see the creativity and dedication that went into crafting these delectable treats. It was a delightful experience that added an element of friendly competition to the festival.

grape leaves competition, many people around a table
grape leaves competition

As the sun set on this beautiful September day, Dunya and I couldn't help but reflect on the sheer diversity and beauty of Arab culture that we had witnessed at the Oregon Arab Festival. It was a day filled with unforgettable moments, from the mesmerizing music and dance to the mouthwatering cuisine and the intricate henna artistry. This annual celebration not only brought together people from all walks of life but also allowed us to appreciate the rich tapestry of Arab traditions and the warmth of its community. We left the festival with hearts full of gratitude for the experience and a newfound appreciation for the cultural mosaic that enriches our world.

I am looking forward to the next years's festival!



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