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LONDON: Arab students from seven universities have gathered for the first time in two years in London to celebrate their heritage and cultural diversity, while raising funds for eye surgeries in Yemen.

“We have such a strong community here in all the different universities and universities in London outside, so it really shows that regardless of politics, religion, we come together because we share a love for our culture and a love for our countries and that is what is most important,” Ayah Magdi El-Hanafi, co-president of the Queen Mary Arab Society, told Arab News.

The 20-year-old environmental scientist of Egyptian and Tunisian descent said the event was also open to non-Arabs and people from different backgrounds.

“We don’t keep it to ourselves. We want everyone to share and love our culture like we do,” she added.

The London native, who said she yearned to feel close to her heritage, was “amazed and happy” to see Arab students “reaching the UK” and sharing their culture with British born and bred people.

The students were entertained throughout the evening with a comedian, a traditional Moroccan folk band and a DJ. (Supplied/QMUL Arab Company)

Around 400 students, from Saudi Arabia to Algeria, with a variety of different accents, flooded the prestigious Porchester Hall in central London, representing their different ethnicities and backgrounds.

The annual intercollegiate event was sponsored by the London Arabia Organization, a UK-based non-profit that aims to strengthen cultural ties between London and the Arab world. It included Arab societies from Queen Mary, King’s College, University College London, London School of Economics, Westminster, Kingston and City Universities.

This year’s Arab Ball is the biggest to date, said Yunus El-Asri, organizer and vice president of Arab society QMUL, with more people and companies getting involved, in line with their social, charity events and general educational programs which aim to bring the Middle Eastern community together in the UK capital.

“This year for the first time we are also running it as a non-profit organization and all proceeds this year will go to a charity called UCAN (Uniting Communities of Africa’s North) which provides cataract surgeries in yemen to heal people who cannot see,” said El-Asri, 21, a Moroccan mechanical engineering student.

Shirin Sirdi, a 20-year-old Moroccan Kurd, an officer of the Queen Mary’s Arab Ball, said that although the majority of students at the event were born in London, she was proud to see so many people coming from abroad, especially Arab women, who were dressed in sparkling dresses, traditional dresses and elegant and colorful costumes.

“The majority of our Queen Mary’s society members are actually women, and more often than not it’s events like these that allow people to dress up and meet new people,” said Sirdi, who studies international relations. mentioned.

“Something like this doesn’t happen often and it’s really difficult to have so many Arabs in one room. But it’s just fantastic to see everyone excited, singing Arabic songs, dancing to Arabic music, enjoying Arabic food, and all of this in the heart of London. We are very, very happy to have managed to organize something on this scale as well,” said Faris El-Sayad, 21, from Egypt.

(LR) Faris El-Sayad, Hassan Yassin Bushnag, Aisha Qadi, Shirin Sirdi, Yunus El-Asri and Ayah Magdi El-Hanafi. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

The fourth-year dentistry student said it was important to bring Arabs together where they can have fun and eat good food, but also remember their cultures and backgrounds and support the people of Yemen.

Psychology student Aisha Qadi, 20, from Saudi Arabia, said the event provided a “wonderful opportunity” to see hundreds of Arab students away from home.

“Coming to the UK as well, you don’t see a lot of Arabs in the community, so in this event bringing together all the Arabs, not just from one university but from so many different universities, just gives us this proximity and we feel like we are back home,” said Qadi, who is also a member of the Arab Ball committee.

Eritrean Hassan Yassin Bushnag, 20, co-president of the QMUL Arab Society, said charity is an important aspect not only in Arab culture but also in Islam, so raising funds for a good cause was “essential”.

Although not Arab, Bushnag’s parents grew up in Saudi Arabia. He is passionate about Arab culture and wants to show people that he has embraced it.

“There’s a lot of stigma against the Arab community, and I just wanted to show that there are better parts of Arab culture, me being someone who embraced it and kind of showed it” , said the biology student.