Friday, Oct. 7, 2016
In Arabic culture, falconry is embedded in the tradition of hunting and hawking. Throughout the Middle East, falcons are trained as part of a sport and are extremely valuable.
“That has, in the psyche of Arabic culture, that has tremendous significance,” said Akel I. Kahera, Ph.D., dean of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar. “We wanted people to understand that.”
So, as part of this year’s Qatar Day — the annual event that brings the Qatar campus to Richmond — organizers invited a falconer to demonstrate how he commands his trained bird of prey to fly. Hundreds of students, faculty and staff attended the event, which featured free Arabic food, courtesy of local restaurant Aladdin Express, as well as henna tattoos, Arabic calligraphy and Arabian perfumes.
The collaborative event is an important cultural exchange for both campuses, Kahera said.
“Judging from the response, attendance and the list of activities, it really speaks a lot about how valuable the Qatar campus is,” he said. “But also how important global education is to this millennial group of students.
“Being in Qatar, Richmond seems so far away. They know it exists, they know it’s real. But once they are here and they’re able to experience it and they’re able to see it, walk on the campus and talk with people, it makes it even more of a concrete reality in their minds. And they really feel connected. Being here is very beneficial to all of us. Even me as an administrator.”
One student in particular benefited greatly from the event. The Winner of the W Hotels Designers of the Future Award, Saadia Khabab, was the sole designer of this year’s Qatar Day fashion show, her first solo show ever.
“The W Hotel has adopted her for a whole year and they promote her as a young emerging designer throughout their chain of hotels and internationally,” said Sandra Bell Wilkins, chair of the fashion department at VCUarts Qatar. “It’s an amazing experience.”
This allows them to talk to some of the students from Qatar and exchange ideas with them.
A May graduate, Khabab’s designs comprised seven pieces from her new collection, from which she took inspiration from the W Hotel and used colors according to its theme, and seven pieces from her senior collection.
“Again, if you look at the lineup of activities, the idea of culture and what it means in a global environment is incredibly important,” Kahera said. “And we encourage the Richmond students to come to Qatar. This [event] allows them to talk to some of the students from Qatar and exchange ideas with them.
“I’m happy to be here as always. Even to see the response. To see the crowd enjoy the fashion show and the food and all of the people who have come to gather to make this a tremendous success.”
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