Photographer:Fotograaf: Amira Eid
Celebrating differences with music, food, and dance
MAASTRICHT. Maastricht’s Stadspark was transformed into a hub of oriental dance, music, and energy by Not Just A Number, a new NGO in Maastricht, dedicated to the “re-humanisation of refugees”. On Wednesday, the 26th of August, the event entitled Culture Lovers, was held, in aims to help integrate the growing number of refugees in Maastricht with the local community, thus establishing a platform for communication and understanding amongst both parties.
In the early afternoon, various ball games were organised, in which refugees, locals, and volunteers of all ages practiced teamwork. The scene looked similar once water balloons were released later in the evening, and the hot weather could truly be taken advantage of. Gradually, small groups (so-called shisha circles) started forming, where conversations in Arabic, English, Dutch and sometimes even German could be overheard. To re-energise the crowd in between performances, popular Arabic dance music was played which, traditionally, calls for a dabke, an oriental circle dance that requires all participants to join hands. The refugees with a Middle Eastern background proceeded to lead the dance, and taught all those unfamiliar with it the steps, and as such quite literally connected with locals.
Nour Khatib, a Syrian refugee from the AZC (asielzoekerscentrum) the asylum seekers centre in Maastricht, who is also on the board of the NGO Refugee Project Maastricht, referred to the festival as merely an ice-breaker: “We still need to get into the hearts of the people.” Nonetheless, the consensus was unanimous; everything from the belly dancing show, Persian guitarist and falafel stand made the event a success. UM students, who made up a considerable percentage of volunteers, pointed out how happy they thought all the participants were when asked about how they felt about the event. “Everyone’s so excited,” a student of international business thought, and unknowingly reassured that Culture Lovers’ aim was met by saying, “It’s fantastic; it’s such a culturally rich day.”