Dominican’s Saudi Club celebrates major Islamic holiday with community

By Sarah Tinoco

October 30, 2013

As a traditional Catholic university, Dominican is very big on sticking to its own religious roots. But last week, the university embraced a celebration of one of the most major holidays in the Islamic calendar.

Dominican’s Saudi Club hosted a celebration on Monday, Oct. 21 in the Social Hall for the entire community to honor Eid-al-Adha, a Muslim holiday known as the feast of sacrifice.

This year, Eid al-Adha was observed by the Muslim world starting on the evening of Monday, Oct. 14 and continued through the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 15.

Eid al-Adha honors the Prophet Ibrahim’s sacrifice of his son, Ishmael, after his family’s pilgrimage from Canaan to Mecca as his response to Allah.

Members of the Saudi Club and other Muslim students were in attendance throughout the event, speaking with other Dominican faculty, staff and students to share the customs of their holiday and answer cultural questions.

“The Saudi Club is seeking to be one of the homeland windows through which to provide a culture and history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and sharing the holidays with the students at the university,” Mohammed Alatawi, president of the Saudi Club, said.

With traditional Saudi Arabian music and a slideshow of cultural pictures played in the background, attendees of the celebration built themselves plates of Saudi Arabian food. The array of food included a salad called tabbouleh, saffron yellow rice, grilled lamb, a sandwich-like pita dish called shawrma and falafel.

“I’m afraid to try new food, but I’m glad I did. It was delicious!” Luis Castrejon, a freshman attendee, said. “The pictures [of the slideshow] were interesting to look at [too], and it caused me to see things from a different perspective.”

A native woman of Dubai, as displayed by her burqa, a traditional garment worn by Muslim women, practiced the art of henna on female guests.

“I got to experience another culture and learn about henna and how it represents beauty for women,” Gabby Sifuentes, also a freshman attendee, said of her experience getting henna.

A table featured an abundance of informational pamphlets featuring aspects of the Saudi Arabian culture, including Saudi Arabian recipes and Saudi arts and crafts.

The Oak Park Public Library, River Forest Public Library and Dominican’s Rebecca Crown Library were also on hand to promote the “Muslim Journey’s” collection of books, a part of the Bridging Cultures Bookshelf program. 

Although the celebration naturally demonstrated the cultural characteristics of the Islamic world rather than the religious aspects, Saudi students happily shared how they personally celebrate Eid al-Adha.

“I join early morning communal prayers dressed in new clothes, following the Sunnah of the Prophet Mohammed to pray and listen to a sermon at a mosque,” Alatawi, who moved to the United States from Saudi Arabia in 2009, explained. “After the communal prayers, I would go home to greet family and friends with gifts and the salutation of ‘Eid Mubarak’ [‘Have a blessed Eid’].”

Mazyad Almutairi, vice president of the Saudi Club, also participates in the prayers and adds that the holiday is a time to spend with family and friends.

“The holiday, to me personally, [is] time to forgive and time to be with my family, but I am far away from them so I send prayer to them,” Almutairi, who moved to Chicago from Saudi Arabia in 2011, said.

All of the Saudi students in attendance are also at Dominican on a scholarship known as the King Abdullah Scholarship. With this scholarship, young Saudi students experience a good U.S. education that is fully paid for by the Saudi government. The purpose of this scholarship program is to strengthen the U.S.-Saudi Arabia relations.

The event was a wonderful way for the Dominican community to embrace students from Saudi Arabia and learn about a culture with very different celebrations than traditionally seen at the university.

“[We have a] gathering with family and friends,” Mead Alqarni, who moved to the United States from Saudi Arabia two years ago, explained. “We have dinner [and] we dance to Arabic music,” staying true to that which Algarni celebrates back at home.