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UT Political Science Celebrates Arabic Friends-Giving

BuehlerMatt Buehler, associate professor of political science and chair of the Middle East studies interdisciplinary program, organized the first-ever Arabic Friendsgiving at UT November 10, 2022. Co-sponsored by the Department of Political Science, the event was a celebration of Middle Eastern culture, music, and food in Eastern Tennessee, and serves as the first event in the new Arab Cultural Series program. 

The potluck event featured homemade cuisine from several different Middle Eastern countries, such as Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Algeria, Morocco, Israel, and Turkey. More than 150 undergraduate and graduate students, faculty members, and members of the Arab American Club of Knoxville (AACK) attended the event. Yassin Terou’s restaurant, Yassin’s Falafel House, also provided food donations. Good Morning America honored Yassin’s downtown Knoxville restaurant with its “Nicest Place in America” award in 2019, describing it as a “gathering place for people of all backgrounds and all walks of life.”

Arabic Friendsgiving also included two student competitions, each with a cash prize of $100 provided by the AACK. Drew Paul and Elodie Buehler, Arabic faculty from the university’s Department of World Languages and Cultures (formerly known as Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures), served as expert judges for both competitions, along with former AACK President Samia Hanna. 

The first competition was for Best Side Dish. Undergraduate student Qaiss Alattiyat won first place for his combination of Palestinian mezze including humus, mutabal (an eggplant dip), and other dips. 

The second competition was for Best Traditional Dress. Undergraduate student Yousef Al-Khelaifi won for presentation of his traditional Kuwaiti clothing for weddings, job interviews, and other formal occasions. Around his waist, Al-Khelaifi sported a dishdasha, a long-sleeved, floor length white robe. Atop his head, he wore a gutra—a red and white patterned square headdress (similar to a scarf or handkerchief) folded into a triangle and placed so it rests equally over the shoulders.  

Besides the throngs of students enjoying the potluck, several other UT luminaries made an appearance and grabbed some lunch, including UT Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Engagement Tyvi Small, Vice Provost for International Affairs Gretchen Neisler, Political Science Department Head Brandon Prins, and faculty members Krista Wiegand, Phillip Stokes, Erin Darby, Amel Djouadi, Revital Ganzi, and others.

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