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Festal: Arab Festival, Aug. 29-30

Explore the cultural roots and current influences of Arab countries through live performances, foods, and a traditional shopping bazaar, at Seattle Center Festál:  Arab Festival, Aug. 29 – 30, 11am – 7pm, in Seattle Center Armory and Fisher Pavilion. Strong coffee, dancing and workshops, family activities, crafts and more, illuminate Arab culture in our midst.

This year marks the 9th year of Arab Festival and the 8th at Seattle Center. Washington Senator Cyrus Habib and U.S. Representative Jim McDermott will attend the festival’s opening ceremony and partake in a friendly mana’eesh (flatbread) eating contest.

Shadia Mansour, the “first lady of Arabic hip-hop” (YouTube video) performs her signature blend of rap and song at Mural Amphitheatre at 7pm on Saturday. Mansour also will participate in a question and answer session, 1pm, Sunday, following the screening of Nana Dankwa’s Hip Hop is Bigger than the Occupation, a documentary film about a group of artists traveling through Palestine to teach and perform non-violent resistance through the arts. Other musical highlights include performances by Tarik Bentlemsani, Naseem Band, Ghassan Shakir, Mostafa Super Group, George Sadak Trio, Nader Kabbani and Dr. Deima Elnatour.

Performances by the Iraqi Women Association Dancers, Zulaika, Shahrazad Dance Ensemble, Jafraa Dabke Team, Karavans Dance Troupe and Janelle Bel Isle showcase Arabic dance. Festival-goers of all ages are invited to learn the traditional dabke step dance and perform on the Armory Stage, at 1pm on Saturday).

This year the festival includes film, with screenings held in the Armory Lofts. Question and answer sessions with the filmmakers follow presentations of Jen Marlowe’s Witness Bahrain and Mikael Taib’s Home in Time for War. Art of Resilience, Raghad Mardini’s short-film about a cultural center in the mountains outside Beirut, also is included on the program.

Visitors can sample cuisine from across the Arab world at booths run by Beyti Kitchen, Ishtar, Mamnoon and Petra Mediterranean Bistro. Other items available for purchase include clothing, books and hand-embroidered tapestries.

The festival offers a variety of educational workshops and engaging lectures. Former Sounders player Fawzi Belal’s lecture Soccer for Employability, 4:15pm on Sunday, helps youth recognize and relate their soccer skills to education and career paths. Art workshops on embroidery, mosaic and culinary arts are open to middle and high school students throughout the afternoon on both days of the festival. Identity, Community, Home uses exercises from the theatre making process to engage both adults and teens in an exploration of these themes. Other workshop and lecture opportunities include At Home in Poetry with Laurel Albina and Travel to the Arab World, The Nutritious and Delicious Mediterranean Diet and Introduction to Arab Music and Songs.

Arab Festival also presents a range of programming for children, including a craft table, Arabic bingo, Arabic storytelling and circle time, featuring songs, movement and games.

Seattle Center Festál is a program of Seattle Center Productions. Admission is free-of-charge. For more information on Arab Festival and other Seattle Center public programming, click on Seattle Center or call 206 684-7200.