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Souk festival will celebrate Middle Eastern culture, May 13

Souk, an outdoor festival featuring Middle Eastern food, music and art, will be held from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 13, at Scudder Plaza outside Robertson Hall.

The event, which takes its name from the Hebrew and Arabic word for market, aims to promote a greater understanding about the people and traditions of the Middle East.

The student-organized festival was started last year by five friends --- senior Sarah Karam, a Lebanese Maronite; junior Saed Shonnar, a Palestinian Muslim; and Jewish students sophomore Zvi Smith, sophomore Jacqui Rabkin and senior Benjy Gerut --- as a way to celebrate the similarities and differences between Middle Eastern cultures.

"We started Souk because we love the Middle East and we lamented the fact that in America we usually only hear about politics or war in the region," Smith said. "We wanted to show people a side of the Middle East they may never have experienced before, and give Middle Easterners from all backgrounds an opportunity to experience each other's cultures."

Nearly 2,000 people attended Souk last year and similar entertainment and attractions will be featured at this year's event. Israeli and Arab bands, a hookah café, a Persian tea shop, falafel stands, an Arabic calligrapher and a Turkish coffee shop will offer an array of Middle Eastern sights, sounds and tastes.

The event will feature performances by Israeli-Moroccan singer Smadar Levi accompanied by an Israeli band, the Arab band Yousef Shamoun, and a disc jockey who mixes traditional Jewish music and Middle Eastern songs. The Israeli and Arab bands will play individual sets and perform together starting at 1 p.m. Vendors, such as Yaday Zahav, Git-USA and Ayin HaShlishit, also will set up tables selling Middle Eastern food, clothing and jewelry.

The festival will be moved to Dillon Gymnasium if it rains.

Smith said he hopes the gathering will create connections between different groups on campus and in the community. He said the event has already fostered relationships between Muslim and Jewish student organizers.

"With its apolitical character, and unique blend of music, food art and wares, Souk is a groundbreaking event for Middle Eastern people to experience each other's cultures in one space," he said. "Souk is a truly collaborative event that offers a rare chance for understanding between many communities."

Souk is sponsored by the following student organizations: the Princeton Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Princeton Committee on Palestine, the Muslim Student Association, Salaam, the Friends of Lebanon and Salaam-Shalom. University co-sponsors include: the Center for Jewish Life, the Program in and Department of Near Eastern Studies and the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life. Community organizations co-sponsoring the event include: the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the United Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks Board of Rabbis and the Jewish Center of Princeton.

For more information about Souk, contact Smith at zmith@princeton.edu.

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