My name is Aimee Knaus and I’m Al-Bustan’s Marketing & Events Coordinator. I get to observe or participate in most of our events and programs, so if Elias, our Programs Coordinator, ever needs help at Al-Bustan’s Arab Arts After-School Program at Moffet Elementary, I’m happy to step in.
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to take the Moffet students to America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far at the Please Touch Museum. Our program provides a space for students from various backgrounds to learn about Arab culture through visual art, singing, and drumming, and we hoped this exhibition would help them to engage further with the richness of cultures from across the Arab world.
The first highlight of the exhibition was a large, curved screen with panoramic tours of W around the world. While we were in this exhibit I heard Acil and Duaa whispering behind me in Arabic – they hoped we would get to see the inside of the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem. I asked them if they had visited the city before and they said no but were so excited to tell me about their Palestinian relatives who had.
One of the mosques we saw reminded them of the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, and I overheard them teach their classmate Brandon about the shooting and about the man who greeted the shooter with “hello, brother.” Of course, I hate that Acil, Duaa, and Brandon live in a world where hate crimes occur, but I’m glad that they could discuss this tragedy and explain it to each other in a safe environment. I asked Acil and Duaa how they feel going to their mosque (Al-Aqsa in Kensington) and they told me that they feel like they are home.
In the next room over I played taxi with Joselyn and Aliyah. We piled into the Pakistani jingle truck asking Aliyah (the driver) to take us to the beach. We haggled over the price and Aliyah asked us if we wanted her to wait for us to finish swimming and fishing so she could drive us home. Negotiating prices and swimming at the beach are some of my favorite memories from traveling in the Arab world and I loved getting to do those things with these students in Philadelphia even if we had to use our imagination.
The most popular attraction at the museum for our students was the carousel! As someone who gets motion sickness, I did not plan on riding but there was no way I could say no to Stardasia’s request that I sit next to her so she wouldn’t be scared.
I loved the students’ bravery and sincerity in engaging with each new exhibit. When they were excited they let the whole room know, and when they were curious they would not settle until they had their questions answered. Seeing our students so engaged with artifacts from around the world and proudly sharing their cultures with each other reminded me why our Arab Arts After-School Program is so important. These students inspire me to live my life more boldly and to be fascinated by the world around me.
Thank you to the Please Touch Museum, Al-Bustan, and Moffet Elementary for letting us share this experience!
Did you visit America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far at the Please Touch Museum? Tell us in the comments.
Al-Bustan’s Marketing & Events Coordinator