Opening October with Offendum

Omar Offendum is a Syrian American hip-hop artist, designer, poet and peace activist.  He is currently an artist in residence at Shangri La, a museum for learning about the global culture of Islamic art and design through exhibitions, guided tours, public programs and digital initiatives. Offendum will be at Shangri La from October 3-24, 2016.

Photo credit Ridwan Adhami.
Photo credit Ridwan Adhami.

Here’s where to find him:

10.06.16 | SPOKEN WORD PERFORMANCE @ HAWAIISLAM 

Offendum will be the feature artist at Hawaii’s nationally recognized poetry slam, HawaiiSlam. Tickets will be sold at the door: $3 before and $5 after 8:30PM.

HawaiiSlam’s First Thursday
Thursday, October 6, 2016
Doors: 7:30PM | Show: 8:30PM | Feature slot: 9:45PM
Hawaiian Brian’s (Crossroads Concert Hall)
1608 Kapiolani Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96814


10.12.16 | ARTIST SALON @ EAST-WEST CENTER

From the jasmine tree-lined courtyards of Nizar Qabbani’s Damascene homes to the flooded riverbanks of Langston Hughes’ Harlem Renaissance poems, this unique artist salon is equal parts presentation and conversation. With a decade-long artistic journey that has both paralleled the rise of social media and borne witness to major sociopolitical shifts in Syria, Offendum discusses how he has been able to develop a special blend of hip-hop and Arabic poetry to bridge cultural divides.

This event is free and open to the public. Directions & parking.

“SyrianamericanA”
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
12:00-1:15PM
East-West Center (Burns Hall, Room 2012)
1601 East-West Road, Honolulu, HI 96848

The salon is part of the University of Hawaii’s International Cultural Studies Graduate Certificate Program Speaker Series.


10.22.16 | ARTIST PERFORMANCE SHANGRI LA

Offendum will conclude his residency at Shangri La with a live performance of his new cross-cultural work, Salaam Aloha. The event will include an open house of the museum and a dinner reception. Tickets for the event cost $45 and instructions to purchase tickets will be sent to subscribers of the Shangri La listserv. Sign up here. Please note there is no parking onsite or in the surrounding neighborhood. Access to Shangri La is by van only. Van service, making multiple rides to Shangri La, begins from Kapiolani Community College parking lot A. Details to follow upon purchase of ticket.

“Salaam Aloha”
Saturday, October 22, 2016
4:30-7:00PM
Shangri La: A Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design
4055 Papu Circle, Honolulu, HI 96816
Photo credit Ridwan Adhami,
Photo credit Ridwan Adhami.

September at Shangri La

Every September, when students head back to school and the trade winds seem to disappear, we catch our breath. We close to the public so that we can work on projects – to maintain the collection, the grounds, and the building itself – that would otherwise disrupt tours.

This year, we will be closed from Sunday, August 28, through Tuesday, October 4. Tours will resume on Wednesday, October 5. You can continue to book tours from October onward through the Honolulu Museum of Art.

We may be closed, but we are definitely not inaccessible. Find us online at www.shangrilahawaii.org: take a virtual tour, learn about what we do, and explore over 500 works from our collection. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—and now Snapchat (@hi_shangrila), where we’ll be posting lots of updates about behind-the-scenes maintenance activities.

When we reopen in October, look forward to a spruced-up tour route, featuring a relandscaped private garden, repainted dining room lanai columns, and repainted Mughal Garden channel, fountain, and falls. We’ve also have some online exhibits in the works through Google Cultural Institute, as well as a residency by Syrian-American hip-hop artist Omar Offendum.

We are not the only ones hard at work this month. We’ve been working with our friends at HoMA to reconceptualize and reinstall the gallery of Islamic art, which will open a day after we do on October 6. The newly installed gallery will feature 77 works from Shangri La, and will include a space for rotating exhibits of contemporary art. Up first are former Shangri La artists-in-residence Ayad Alkadhi, Walid Raad, and Mohamed Zakaria, and Lebanese artist Reem Bassous.

Thanks for your patience, keep in touch, and we look forward to seeing you again in October!

A Closer Look: Trees in the Central Courtyard

An Indian laburnum tree, also known as a yellow shower tree, grows in the central courtyard at Shangri La. It is a robust whimsical tree that harmonizes with the largely Persian aesthetic of the space. Its branches twist together in a delicate embrace and its canopy has filled the courtyard’s open roof, following the lines of the house. When a wind rustles through, spots of light flicker above as leaves and petals float gently down to the base of the tree. And, if you look closely, you’ll notice that the tree is not one, but two — two trees melded almost seamlessly together.

These images are for use by Lindemann Construction only for Portfolio, web site, and award submission purposes. Third party and additional rights are restricted without permission. All images are (C)2005, David Franzen [#Beginning of Shooting Data Section] Nikon D2X Focal Length: 16mm Optimize Image: Color Mode: Mode II (Adobe RGB) Noise Reduction: OFF 2006/01/13 14:50:15.0 Exposure Mode: Manual White Balance: Direct sunlight Tone Comp: Less Contrast RAW (12-bit) Lossless Metering Mode: Multi-Pattern AF Mode: AF-S Hue Adjustment: 0° Image Size: 2868 x 4320 1/15 sec - F/11 Flash Sync Mode: Not Attached Saturation: Normal Exposure Comp.: 0 EV Sharpening: Normal Lens: 12-24mm F/4 G Sensitivity: ISO 200 Image Comment: [#End of Shooting Data Section]
Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2006.)
Planted between the 1940s and 1970s, the two trees mirror two other — less visible — trees in the courtyard. Looking closely at the row of seventeenth-century Persian tile panels on the eastern wall, you will notice several intertwined turquoise and brown trees, such as the ones seen on the panel (48.98.1) below:

Tree tile
Tile panel (48.98.1). Iran (Isfahan), 17th century. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai’i. (Photo: Paige Donnelly, 2016.)

The motif of intertwined trees may bring to mind the mystical dimension of Islam. In Sufi poetry, the bond between the Lover and the Beloved is used as a metaphor for the bond between the faithful and God. Likewise, in art, symbols such as intertwined trees can serve as visual expressions of devotion to divine love.

Even from first glace, the synergy of trees in the central courtyard — in art and in nature —  has a powerful effect. This mirroring of 400-year-old tiles with two living Indian laburnum trees is rooted in the unconventional and beautiful symmetry of the house as a whole.

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Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i. (Photo: David Franzen, 1999.)

Each morning, as I make my way through the central courtyard, my eyes always linger on the branches spiraling up before me. I see not two trees, but one.

Palmyra, May 20, 2015

Once a time for camel racing, now a time for holding our breath.

In the spring of 1938, with the design of Shangri La underway, Doris Duke and her husband, James Cromwell, visited Palmyra as they traveled throughout the Middle East—also stopping in Egypt and Iran.

Palmyra, 1938. (Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives Photograph Collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.)
Palmyra, 1938. (Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives Photograph Collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.)

Arrangements for this trip were made by Arthur Upham Pope, an American dealer, collector and scholar of Persian art. In each place the Cromwells studied, they filmed and photographed historical architectural details and provided images to the architects that would inform Shangri La’s final design.

Continue reading Palmyra, May 20, 2015

The chain that connects the pedal to the wheel

Ganzeer, a recent artist-in-residence at Shangri La, participated in POW! Wow! Hawaii’s week-long art festival this past February.

Ganzeer, meaning bicycle chain in Arabic, is the pseudonym of choice for this dynamic Egyptian artist. To be clear: he is not an author, comic book artist, installation artist, painter, speaker, street artist, or videographer, though he has assumed these roles in a number of places around the world. Rather, he is the chain that connects the pedals to the wheels–the mechanism that allows the bike to move. In the face of Egypt’s consecutive revolutions, he is a connector of ideas, a conduit of the energy generated on the street.

There are several ways you can keep an eye on Ganzeer in the upcoming months:

A special thanks to our interviewer, Maida Besic; our cameraman, Josh Lee; and video editor, Fritz De Guzman. The song in the clip is “More Love” by Rebelution.

Chefs from Taj Palace Hotel Prepare the Best of Mughal Cuisine in Honolulu

Hemant Oberoi, Grand Executive Chef at the Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, and his colleagues, Chefs Shanty Prasad Nautiyal and Ashok Sangale, traveled to Honolulu for a week in October to help kick off a year of public programming in celebration of the opening of the Mughal Suite at Shangri La. On October 6, the chefs shared secret recipes and preparation techniques for contemporary Mughal-themed dishes with students enrolled in the University of Hawai‘i’s Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapi‘olani Community College. Following that, a second demonstration and tasting session was presented to 120 members of the general public.

Chef Oberoi teaches Kapi‘olani Community College culinary arts students how to make murg khatta pyaz. Shangri La, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i.
Chef Oberoi teaches Kapi‘olani Community College culinary arts students how to make murg khatta pyaz. Shangri La, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai’i.

Hemant Oberoi is a master storyteller as well as a highly innovative award-winning chef, who is credited with bringing Indian cuisine into a world-class arena. As he deftly sautéed chicken, a variety of select Indian spices, tomatoes, and pickled onions to demonstrate the preparation of murg khatta pyaz (naga chilli chicken—see recipe below), he talked about the importance of understanding traditional cooking techniques. “You should never forget your roots, or your roots will forget you,” he cautioned. He also imparted some sage advice to his audience of fledgling chefs from the culinary institute. “Be sure to learn the basics before you attempt fusion, or you will cause confusion,” he advised. The audience laughed when he told them, “You know, India had the original Iron Chefs! In the past, the chefs used real irons to press and flatten ingredients used in cooking.” He also had a bone to pick with the export of Indian cuisine. “For many years, London was our worst enemy,” he said. “There were bad Indian restaurants on every block, and people thought that was the real Indian cuisine. Fortunately, the situation is slowly improving.”

On October 9, members of the Honolulu chapter of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs were treated to an unforgettable meal prepared by Halekulani Executive Chef Vikram Garg, Chef Oberoi, and the Taj chefs. This event was organized to help raise awareness and funds for the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapi‘olani Community College. According to staff at the Halekulani, chefs Vikram and Hemant spent an entire week in the Halekulani kitchens cooking, comparing recipes, and experimenting with new dishes.

Mughal Suite opening dinner, prepared by Taj chefs and master chefs and students from the Culinary Institute of the Pacific, October 11, 2014. Shangri La, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i.
Mughal Suite opening dinner, prepared by Taj chefs and master chefs and students from the Culinary Institute of the Pacific, October 11, 2014. Shangri La, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai’i.

Hemant Oberoi and his colleagues topped off their week in Honolulu on October 11 by preparing a memorable Mughal feast for the opening celebration for Shangri La’s Mughal Suite. The Taj chefs worked with master chefs and students from the Culinary Institute of the Pacific to prepare and serve a truly outstanding selection of Indian dishes, including papadi chaat (chickpea dumplings with potato, yogurt, and tamarind chutney); dum ki nalli (aromatic slow-cooked lamb curry); and roasted-almond kulfi (Indian almond ice cream).

The legacy of the Taj chefs’ visit to Honolulu can be found in the events that brought master chefs, culinary experts, hotel professionals, students, and members of the general public together to celebrate their shared interest in one of the world’s great cuisines. This series of presentations by Hemant Oberoi and his colleagues was made possible by three-way co-sponsorship between Shangri La, the University of Hawai‘i’s Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapi‘olani Community College, and the Halekulani.

Hemant Oberoi, Grand Executive Chef at The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i.
Hemant Oberoi, Grand Executive Chef at The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai’i.

 

Chef Hemant Oberoi’s Murg Khatta Pyaz Chicken (PDF)

DSC_4061

For the marinade
400g boneless, skinless chicken, cut into cubes
2 tbsp ginger and garlic paste
the juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp red chilli paste (made by soaking dried, deseeded Kashmiri chillies in water and pulverising them into a fine paste in a blender) or paprika powder
1 tbsp mustard oil or any vegetable oil
1 tsp garam masala
50g Greek yogurt

For the gravy
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin
150g chopped onion
1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste
60g chopped tomatoes
2 tsp red chilli paste (as above) or paprika powder

For tossing
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp chopped ginger and garlic (1cm piece of ginger and 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped)
1 chopped green chilli
8 pickled onions
1 tsp chaat masala
a pinch of dry fenugreek powder
2 cup of fresh chopped coriander

Directions
Rub the chicken pieces in a mix of salt, ginger and garlic paste and lemon juice, and set aside to marinate for 20 minutes. Next apply the red chilli paste, mustard oil, garam masala and yogurt, and marinate for a further four hours. Preheat the oven to 230C/gas mark 8. Place the pieces of chicken across a deep baking tray and cook for 8-10 minutes, turning them occasionally. Remove from the oven and set aside.

To make the gravy, heat the oil in a pan, add the cumin seeds and cook until they crackle. Add the onion and sauté over a low flame until transparent and a light golden colour. Add the ginger and garlic paste, tomatoes and red chilli paste and cook for 20 minutes. Put the gravy to one side.

In a frying-pan, heat the oil and sauté the chopped garlic and ginger and green chilli. Add the gravy, cooked chicken and pickled onions and mix together. Season with salt. Garnish with the chaat masala, dry fenugreek powder and chopped coriander leaves.

 

Conserving the Syrian Room Mirrored Doors

Cupboard door (64.9.2) in the Syrian Room. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2009.)
Cupboard door (64.9.2) in the Syrian Room. Syria, Damascus, ca. 1840-60. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2009.)

The following is a guest post by conservation intern Kayleen Roberts.

In the Syrian Room at Shangri La, there is a pair of gilded wood, mirrored doors (64.9.2). The doors are from the Late Ottoman period of Syria. In 2010, they underwent extensive conservation work by students from the Winterthur conservation program in Delaware. Although the overall condition of the doors is stable, they are still very fragile, especially the hollow, wooden parts. Recently this fragility came to be realized during a routine cleaning, when part of the wood element was broken off of the door.

As a new conservation intern, I couldn’t help feeling daunted after being handed a plastic bag full of tiny wooden fragments awaiting their chance for repair. Although I was worried, this challenge also left me eager: I had a project. This project was different from the others, which for the most part involved immense amounts of cleaning. It was a test of my manual dexterity, my patience, and my desire to pursue a career in conservation. I accepted this challenge and devised a plan.

  1. Research: what is this piece’s conservation history?
  2. Documentation of the current condition, both written and photographic.
  3. Treatment proposal: what is the best way to make this repair?
  4. Carry out the plan for treatment.
  5. Treatment report, both written and photographic.

After completing the research and condition documentation, the first part of the treatment consisted of matching as many fragments as possible to their adjacent pieces, like a puzzle. Once the fragments were matched up, I used an adhesive and pieces of Japanese paper to join them. When the fragments had dried, voids were filled with a mixture of microscopic glass balloons and resin to reinforce the repair. The newly joined fragments were then reattached to their corresponding places on the wooden door, again with Japanese paper and an adhesive. Voids behind the repairs were filled in the same manner as voids in the fragments: with microscopic glass balloons and resin. Fill materials were coated with a layer of gloss acrylic emulsion medium and then toned with acrylic emulsion paints.

Mirrored doors before, during, and after treatment. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i, 2013.
Portion of the mirrored doors before, during, and after treatment.
Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i, 2013.

Although this was a seemingly impossible task at first, I was able to complete this project with the help and guidance of Kent Severson, Shangri La’s conservator. I think of this repair now as the first “big” conservation project that I have been assigned. In the end, I’m sure it will seem to be such a small project, but for now, I am happy to say that I am proud of the work I did.

About the Guest Author: Kayleen Roberts has been living in Hawai‘i since 1995, when she and her family moved here from southern California. Her interest in the arts goes as far back as childhood, when she would spend time making jewelry. Throughout high school she took various art classes and continued to do so when she started attending Windward Community College in 2008. During her college education, she was able to travel to South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia, which exposed her to a plethora of art historical traditions. In June of 2013, she graduated from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa with a BA in art history and shortly afterward, she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy! In August she started working as a pre-program conservation intern at Shangri La, which will give her the necessary experience to apply to a conservation graduate program.

Conservation interns Kat Harada and Kayleen Roberts. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i, 2013.
Conservation interns Kat Harada and Kayleen Roberts.
Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai’i, 2013.

Pelin Esmer in Honolulu

Although Hawai‘i, as a crossroads between the United States, Asia, and the Pacific, is a very cosmopolitan place, it is rare to find connections to Turkish culture—and visitors from Turkey are even rarer. Shangri La was pleased to host Turkish filmmaker Pelin Esmer for a five-day residency January 10–14, 2014.

Esmer arrived on January 10 from snow-bound Idaho, the previous stop on her lecture tour. She seemed shocked as she emerged from Honolulu International Airport into the blazing sunshine and warmth. She was delighted to learn that her hotel sat on the beach in Waikīkī, and was able to add a daily swim to her busy schedule.

Pelin Esmer gives a talk at Shangri La about her experiences as a filmmaker.
Pelin Esmer gives a talk at Shangri La about her experiences as a filmmaker.
Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai’i.

Esmer’s first public presentation was on January 11—an afternoon talk at Shangri La about her experiences as a filmmaker. The talk was moderated by Dr. Vilsoni Hereniko, an award-winning Fijian filmmaker and professor of film at the University of Hawai‘i. That evening, Esmer introduced a screening of her award-winning film Watchtower at the Honolulu Museum of Art and answered questions from the audience following the film.

Esmer also gave a presentation and screened film clips to students enrolled in Global Studies classes at James Campbell High School in ‘Ewa Beach, which gave her a chance to experience O‘ahu’s more rural settings. The students enjoyed her clips and comments, and had many questions for her about how she writes the stories for her films, about how she gets her films made, and about everyday life for people in Turkey. Her presentation at Campbell High School was co-sponsored by the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council, a Honolulu-based organization with a mission to promote greater awareness and understanding of international affairs and to strengthen Hawai‘i’s role in the Asia/Pacific Region.

Pelin Esmer with students from James Campbell High School. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i.
Pelin Esmer with students from James Campbell High School.
Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai’i.

In every presentation, Pelin Esmer clearly demonstrated that her stories about life, everyday problems, and the complexities of human emotions resonate with people worldwide. Those who were lucky enough to attend her events are already asking when she will return to Honolulu. Shangri La staff are grateful to Caravanserai for helping us bring such a wonderful and talented filmmaker to Hawai‘i. We hope that the transition from Honolulu to Anchorage, Esmer’s next stop, won’t be too much of a shock for her!

Profile: Conservation Intern Kathryn Harada

In this blog entry, Kathryn Harada shares a bit about her experience as a conservation intern at Shangri La. Since April 2012, Kat has helped us to care for our collection of Islamic Art, while gaining experience that will help prepare her for a graduate program in conservation. Kat graduated from Smith College in 2008 with degrees in art history and Italian. She worked in the conservation lab at Smith College Museum of Art and interned at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ furniture conservation lab before moving to Honolulu to apprentice in a furniture restoration studio. (To learn more about training opportunities at Shangri La visit our website.)

Kat Harada removes overpaint from a 12th–13th-century tabouret, revealing previous restorations and repairs. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i.
Kat Harada removes overpaint from a 12th–13th-century tabouret, revealing previous restorations and repairs. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i.

Working as a conservation intern at Shangri La has been an amazing opportunity to gain experience in the conservation of a variety of materials and objects. My projects have ranged from helping to prepare the marble jali screens for their restoration and reinstallation; to cleaning a gold ewer (57.5) dated to the early first millennium BC; to conserving a variety of glass, jade, metal, and ceramic objects.

Earlier this year, I completed a conservation treatment for a 12th–13th-century tabouret (48.297) on view in the Mihrab Room. This object had undergone extensive restoration, probably to ready it for sale in the art market of the 1940s. There were several plaster-of-Paris fills bridging the gaps between fragments of ceramic. The detailed painting that camouflaged the fill areas with the original ceramic had discolored over time. The adhesive holding all the pieces together had also begun to deteriorate. Over the course of several months, I set to work removing the old paint and as much of the old adhesive as possible. I re-shaped some areas of fill, and I finished by touching in some color to blend the fills with the ceramic.

12th–13th-century tabouret, during and after treatment. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i.
12th–13th-century tabouret, during and after treatment. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i.

Currently, I am working on a series of objects that are being considered for display in the Mughal Suite. Among these objects, there is a group of ceremonial daggers and swords, from which my next project will be pulled. These are complicated objects, consisting of several different materials—e.g., jade, hard stones, wood, textiles, and various metals—each with its own set of conservation challenges.

Kat cleaning the dining room chandelier (47.134). Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i.
Kat cleaning the dining room chandelier (47.134). Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i.

One of my other responsibilities as a conservation intern is to assist with the weekly cleaning and maintenance of the objects on display. Shangri La’s proximity to the ocean, the lovely Hawaiian breezes, and the open architectural design of the house work together to guarantee that the objects get a daily dose of salt and dirt that could be potentially harmful to their longevity. I am learning so much about preventative conservation from this weekly maintenance routine.

I am so fortunate to be a part of keeping Doris Duke’s vision alive and helping to make sure that her collection can continue to inspire and educate those who come to see it. My experience working here will provide a strong foundation as I continue to pursue a career in art conservation.

Volunteer Profile: Christian Galiza

Volunteer Christian Galiza in Essaouira, Morocco, Summer 2012.
Shangri La volunteer Christian Galiza in Essaouira, Morocco, Summer 2012.

In this blog entry, we are pleased to introduce Christian Galiza, our stellar summer volunteer, who will be a senior at Campbell High School this fall. At Campbell, Christian studies Arabic language through the OneWorld Now! program. He and his classmates have visited Shangri La several times, and last summer they travelled to Morocco to study Arabic for three weeks.

While volunteering with us, Christian rehoused collections photographs, scanned archival materials, transcribed guide questions, and even did some work with calligraphic cartouches. We can’t thank him enough for his excellent work and pleasant (and funny!) company. Before he left for China (on another study trip with OneWorld Now!), Christian took a moment to tell us a little about his studies and his trip to Morocco last year:

Some of the subjects many of my friends study include Spanish, French, and Japanese. There are more people in the world who speak Arabic than Japanese and French combined. So where is Arabic in the curriculum? Most high schools almost never offer Arabic language in their language departments. In fact, less than 1% of high school students in the United States study Arabic language. One of the ideas behind the OneWorld Now! program is to break down the barriers between Americans and the world by creating leaders that will learn foreign languages and then apply their leadership skills while traveling abroad. I think that if we do this, then the world would stop abiding by their stereotypes and unite with one another.

Although the desire for studying Arabic hadn’t even passed my mind when I came to high school, my attention to this language and leadership program helps me want to take a more unique approach to my high school career. I think of Arabic as a very interesting and enjoyable language to learn. Arabic dialects are different in each Arabic-speaking country, so the language is paired with a culture that is unique in its own way, honoring traditions that date back thousands of years.

Although it was just three weeks, my trip to Morocco was definitely a life changing experience. The main purpose of my trip was to study Moroccan Arabic. Although most days we studied in the classroom for three hours, we would be cut loose after the scheduled activities. We had to find ways to get to school, and do our own shopping without much supervision. To make it an even more authentic experience, we lived alongside host families so we could see the day in the life of a Moroccan.

Two other high school students from Seattle were living with me, along with eight host family members: parents, two twin sisters, another sister, and three brothers in one huge home. I got along with them extremely well and felt that I lucked out from the rest of my group, many of whom stayed in smaller, compact, old flats just above the noise of the markets in an area in the medina that never sleeps. In my family, the sisters had iPhones. Despite our language barriers, we bonded through sharing pictures and playing wireless multiplayer games from the App Store. These bonding times happened at around midnight, after dinner which was usually served at around 11:15 pm. Moroccans refuse to let people go on anything less than a full stomach, and go hours and hours exchanging stories through gestures and laughing at each other.

Some of my favorite traditions were couscous Fridays, during which a large dish was served with couscous, loads of vegetables, and some chicken or lamb. These were called tagines. These dishes can be expensive and time-consuming to prepare, but are specially made and served to guests regardless of how little or how much they made that week. Hot mint tea with 60% sugar was served daily, many servings coming from people whom I didn’t know at all and were excited to meet a foreigner.

Morocco’s capital city, Rabat, was bustling with the noises and smells of the medina and the sounds of rush hour in the downtown area just outside of my school. During specific times during the days and nights, extremely loud speakers would announce the prayer call from the mosques on every block. Despite the seemingly inconvenient times, all business would suddenly freeze. People would pull out their rugs in direction of Mecca or rush to the mosque and start praying. This routine got extremely strict during Ramadan, when everyone was fasting.

Morocco is a very modern place that refuses to let go of its original roots. It’s been very Westernised by the Europeans. French is an official business language and so it is spoken all the time. McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken sit alongside a Chinese restaurant whose owners are Moroccan. These restaurants sit next door to older parts of the city. There is a mix of people who have a great sense of Western popular fashion, but some dress conservatively. And everybody seemed totally fine with that.