Minutes after gates opened at noon Saturday for Arab Fest, the line for food was packed.
“The beef kafta is fantastic,” said Dan Schott, taking a big bite from the Middle Eastern treat made with parsley, onions and spices.
Under a tent nearby, visitors looked at examples of cuneiform – one of the world’s oldest forms of writing. Flyers posted throughout the event space at Headwaters Park highlighted accomplishments of important artists and scientists including Arab astronomer Al-Biruni, who 1,000 years ago measured the circumference of the earth with nearly perfect accuracy.
All are simple ways to break barriers and foster understanding among cultures, according to organizers and volunteers at the fifth annual event.
Sattor Jaboori, originally from northern Iraq, said Arab Fest can help provide context to news stories and images from media outlets that might focus only on war or conflict. He volunteered at the event for the first time this year and sees it as a way to educate and enlighten.
Some people might not know there are no camels in Iraq, Jaboori said, or that the whole region isn’t a desert. The area where he grew up is mountainous, like Southern California, he said.
“Events like this add a human factor,” Jaboori said. “These things, little by little, will help to bridge that gap.”
Sam Jarjour, an attorney who is a member of the Arab Fest board, said he hopes that is true.
He was born in the U.S., but his parents came here from Syria. He has family there and said Arab Fest conveys a welcoming feel that is present in most Middle Eastern homes.
“It’s family friendly,” Jarjour said. “It focuses on hospitality. The Arab world is a lot about hospitality.”
Schott, who arrived at the event with friend Allie Ellis, said he agreed.
“(It’s a) nice environment,” he said.
Ellis said she’s thankful Fort Wayne has opportunities for people to learn about other cultures.
Arab Fest continues today at Headwaters Park.