Remembering Palestine

There is something undeniably enchanting about Arab culture. Its language: from the melodious sounds to the intricate calligraphy. The music: from Umm Kulthoum’s Alf Laila to the folk songs of Palestine. The poetry: from Nizar Qabbani’s Balqis to Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet. The endless coffee and tea sipped while exchanging multitudes of stories. All in cities echoing with the sounds of history, from Cairo to Beirut and Jaffa to Damascus.

However, we tend to get so worked up with all the politics going on in the region that there isn’t much energy left for bringing out the arts. It’s a loss for those who don’t get the exposure to anything other than the politics. That’s where Al-Bustan comes in, quite heroically I would add.


Author Shawqi Kassis with Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble

Al-Bustan’s Arab Music Concert Series, which has been running since Fall 2011, has brought to us some beautiful music and literature right here in Philadelphia. The most recent event, Remembering Palestine, was a perfect way to wrap up the fall series as we begin the holidays. Familiar folk songs were performed during the first half by a community ensemble of singers and musicians, followed by a reading of excerpts from Haifa is Not Cordoba by Shawqi Kassis. I was happy to discover that Dr. Kassis is an old friend of my family and that I had met him as a child.

The night, along with the other concerts that I’ve attended, had a way of bringing me back to my roots. The words and melodies transported me to a whole other dimension where it’s simply me and my roots reconnecting. It’s that enchantment of the culture that never ceases to move me in endless ways.

Nelly Keisi
Temple University, Class of 2017

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