Shuruq II

Olympia Arab Festival 2016

by Adam McKinney for OLY ARTS

In Islam, there are three times a day when it is forbidden to pray: sunrise, sunset and when the sun rests at its highest position on the horizon. Sunset, when praying isn’t allowed, is called Shuruq. Since 2012, in the South Sound, Shuruq has also become the casual name given to the Olympia Arab Festival, a biennial celebration of Arab culture and a fostering of a community that may not get as much attention as others in the Pacific Northwest. This weekend sees the third installment of Shuruq, and this year finds it predictably packed with events, from music and dance to a number of speakers and a bounty of Arab food.

Presented by the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice, the Olympia Arab Festival comes around every two years to assemble a stunning group of Arab performers, educators, leaders, and business owners. The Rachel Corrie Foundation is a non-profit organization that seeks to engender cooperation among communities both local and around the world and has first set their sights on Israel and Palestine.

From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the festival fits an admirable amount of content into a short timespan.

“I’m very excited to see how the entire event will unfold,” says Jessica Babcock, program director for the Rachel Corrie Foundation. “While I’ve been involved in the planning of this event, I have not yet attended an Olympia Arab Festival myself, so I’m excited to see an entire year’s worth of planning come to life. I’m excited for the Argan Band, and the dabke dancers that everyone tells me are the life of the party. I’m excited for the food and to see Irum Sheikh’s photographs and Koloud ‘Kay’ Tarapolsi’s artwork. I’m excited to hear all about the great discussion and insight gained from the panel on Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism and others.”

Shuruq features a panoply of artists across three stages in the Olympia Center. Seattle’s Argan Band is a Moroccan-American quartet that thrives on unimpeachable rhythm. Blending funk, jazz, and spacey improvisation, Argan Band is, at times, reminiscent of Sun Ra and His Arkestra. The Jafra Dabke Team brings traditional Palestinian folk dancing; Irum Sheik’s photography offers intimate looks at Palestinian men, women and children; and Kay Tarapolsi’s art is a bright, vibrant view of the Arab world.

Babcock notes contemporary Islamophobia. In these tumultuous times, an event like Shuruq can’t come soon enough.

“We have an opportunity to create meaningful cross-cultural relationships,” says Babcock. “I hope folks take advantage of this and truly connect with the folks they meet and see on Saturday. This type of event doesn’t happen in every community, and I think it’s what makes Olympia and our neighboring communities a great place to live.”

Event Schedule

Mahrajan Al-Arabi Stage in the Main Hall
11 a.m.: welcome by Sy Khan
11:15 a.m.: Argan Band
noon: Khaldoun Ramzi
12:45 p.m.: Olympia Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Jones
1 p.m.: fashion show
2 p.m.: Al-Andalus Ensemble
3 p.m.: House of Tarab
3:30 p.m.: henna
4 p.m.: Jafra Dabke Dance Team

Shuruq Stage in the Senior Center
11 a.m.: Arabic in 30 minutes with Saif Alsarhani and Sally Brownfield
noon: children’s story time
1 p.m.: readings for all ages with Nadia Reimer
1:45 p.m.: Palestinian art with Huda Giddens
3 p.m.: Tarik Bentlesmani

Montada Stage
11 a.m.: Student Solidarities Panel
noon: poetry readings and workshop with Mo Sati and Maged Zaher
1 p.m.: Arab-American artists Amjad Faur, Irum Sheikh and Koloud “Kay” Tarapolsi
2 p.m.: Syria: War, Trauma and Resilience panel
3 p.m.: Islamophobia, Anti-Arab Racism and Political Discourse panel

What: Shuruq III

Where: Olympia Center,
222 Columbia St. NW, Olympia

When: 11-5 Saturday, Oct. 8

How much: free

Learn more: 360-754-3998 |


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