June 9, 2009

The Middle East Center and Penn Museum's Education Department hosted the first Middle East Day at the Museum on June 5th , 2009. We welcomed a group of 85 students from the School District of Philadelphia (Motivation High School, Ben Franklin HS, Leeds Military Academy) and Camden School District (Pine Point Middle School). One of the highlights of this one-day event was the keynote address by Carolyn Baugh, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Penn. Ms. Baugh's speech discussed Arabic poetry including that of pre-Islam; Judeo-Arabic poetry; Persian poetry; and Andalusian poetry from Spain. She also talked about the Arabic influence on today's pop culture.

The students then got a chance to explore Penn Museum's magnificent collection. The guided tours covered the sections on Israel, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. Students were grouped into two workshops; one examined “Art and Architecture of the Middle East,” the other, “Life of a Teenager in Turkey.” For lunch, students were served Middle Eastern food. In the afternoon, Marie Brown, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at Penn, delivered a talk on life in Sudan.

As the capstone to the day's events, there was a musical performance and interactive presentation featuring musicians from Spice Route Ensemble, a local band that specializes in Middle Eastern and Eastern Mediterranean music.

Here is what some of our participants had to say about Middle East Day:

"Middle East Day was a wonderful opportunity for area teachers and students to actively engage with Middle Eastern and North African culture" - Presenter Marie Grace Brown

"Middle East Day helped students gain a diverse understanding of the Middle East from the disciplines of History, Society, Art and Music" - James Ryan, MEC Administrative Assistant and event organizer.