New members from the Syrian and Kurdish communities in Carndonagh joined activists to celebrate the success of the Inishowen town’s first ever Middle Eastern Festival.
The festival’s lead organiser, Siobhan Shiels from Inishowen Together, put the programme together in collaboration with members of the town’s Syrian and Kurdish residents.
The running of events was handed over to the new Carndonagh residents themselves to share their expertise in areas including Arabic language and calligraphy, poetry, song, Islam, herbal medicine, Middle Eastern dance and cuisine.
The group also made plans for future intercultural events and celebrations of the diversity in the Co. Donegal peninsula.
Siobhan Shiels commented: “We had a wonderful opportunity here to learn from our new families about Middle Eastern life – what sets the culture apart and the many similarities and interests that unite us.
“More than 200 people enjoyed the events led by our newest residents – so it was a really nice platform for them as facilitators to give the rest of the community a glimpse of some of the talents, rich traditions and skills that they add to Inishowen.
She added: “There was an amazing community atmosphere throughout the week – everybody was really getting to know each other – and as much as it was a learning experience for many, the feedback was mostly about what fun it was.
“It was such a family event – lots of children playing, singing, eating and dancing together; trying out new games from the other side of the world.”
Helen Turton, who helped organise the festival alongside Ms Shiels, said: “The festival was a great success, it was wonderful to see everyone celebrating and learning about Middle Eastern culture together as a community.
“Sunday’s event had something for everyone but highlights for me were definitely the Syrian food which looked and tasted incredible and Abdul and Malak telling the story of their journey from Syria to Carn.”
The Syrian chefs who had prepared the banquet spoke of their experience of the event, with Asmaa Batal saying: “I liked seeing everyone enjoying the food we prepared.”
One young Syrian couple, Malak and Abdul, also told their story of their escape from their war-ravaged home and journey across Turkey, before travelling across the Mediterranean on a tiny, tight-packed rubber boat to stay for months in tents in Greek refugee camps before being accepted by the Irish government to travel on to Ballaghadereen, where they were placed in shared accommodation for ten months before eventually being housed in Carndonagh.
Suileman Darwish who also took part in many of the festival activities remarked: “I loved seeing everyone enjoying Arabic culture, playing and sharing food together.”
The festival, which featured other events such as “The History of Syria”, “Arabic for Beginners”, “An Exploration of Kurdish Culture” and “Herbs for Life – Traditional Medicine from the Middle East”, looks set to be the first of many intercultural events in Inishowen.
Photos of the event can be seen below.Tags: