On the third day of Al-Bustan’s Arab Arts & Culture Course for Educators, Nora Elmarzouky, director of education, gave the morning lecture. Nora discussed the culture, ways of life, and contributions of Andalusia. We learned that a major focus during this time was the atmosphere of coexistence and being able to learn from each other and understand our differences rather than isolate ourselves. The Andalusian people emphasized finding strength in cultural differences as well as a common ground on which they could relate and discover similarities. They sought to overcome the oversimplification of racial, religious, and ethical identifications through education and cooperation between all people. At the end of the day, we watched Out of Cordoba, a film documenting the history of Andalusia and a man’s journey in search of information on this critical time period in Arab history. The film and Nora’s lecture connected well, as they emphasized similar points and supplemented the course with more knowledge on Andalusian history. This film also stressed the question of coexistence. Can Muslims, Christians, and Jews live in harmony and cooperation as they once had? Or is it a concept to be left in the past?
A primary goal of Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture is to foster coexistence through education and exposure to Arab culture. During this course, I have been able to experience this first hand. I learned more about Arab culture, history, and music every single day, and through this, I am able to become a more global person. By observing and taking notes throughout the various classes, I also gained an insight on what it means to be a music teacher and how to use music as a way to introduce new cultures and create a welcoming environment for people from all walks of life. Using music as a unifier, we hope to make people less deterred by their social, ethical, racial, and religious differences, and rather express interest, respect, and understanding. Through the Professional Development course, we are giving the teachers the tools to help educate their own students on Arab culture and our message, and to expand the concept of coexistence and appreciation for our differences.
Ashley Geisler, Al-Bustan Summer Intern