Manitoba

'It's very important to share our culture': Folklorama's 1st-ever Egyptian pavilion takes flight

A sold-out show and a colourful, high-energy vibe set the tone Sunday at Folklorama’s first-ever Egyptian pavilion — an effort organizers say was years in the making.

Pavilion runs through Aug. 10 at University of Manitoba's University Centre Multi-Purpose Room

Cairo-born dancer Mohammed El Sayed performs the Whirling Dervish at Folklorama's first-ever Egyptian Pavilion on Sunday night. (James Turner)

A sold-out show and a colourful, high-energy vibe set the tone Sunday at Folklorama's first-ever Egyptian pavilion — an effort organizers say was years in the making.

More than 400 people packed into the University of Manitoba's University Centre Multi-Purpose Room to take in performances of Egyptian dances, snack on traditional foods and a view a photography display from select parts of the north African country. 

Plans for the pavilion have been in the works for the last three years, according to pavilion co-organizer Hala Salama. The pavilion shows off the culture's "energetic and very bubbly" nature, she said.

"They love to laugh and have fun," said Salama. "Even at the worst time ever, they find something to laugh about — even themselves sometimes.

"You find lots of positivity in the culture." 

Dancers Asra and Mohamed El Sayed perform at Folklorama's Egyptian Pavilion. (James Turner )

Salama hopes people leave the pavilion seeing the diversity of Egypt through the eyes of what she termed "the everyday Egyptian" — working people who have fun, love music and have a spiritual side.

A number of attendees on Sunday also took part in an impromptu dance party at the conclusion of the 6:45 p.m. show.

It's been rewarding to see many in the roughly 5,000 person-strong Winnipeg-Egyptian community pull together to help get the pavilion off the ground, she said.

"It was the most enjoyable and fulfilling experience to have," Salama said. "Everybody just wanted the pavilion to succeed, to excel."

Dancers perform the Zafa Dance at Folklorama's Egyptian Pavilion on Sunday night. (James Turner )

Diaa Aldah moved from Egypt to Canada with his family a year ago. He said having the pavilion is important to him in a number of ways, not least of which in how it helped Egyptian-Canadian youth in Winnipeg learn about their roots and mingle.

"A person without roots cannot grow," the 48-year-old said. "We consider Canada as our next home so we have to mix together."

It also matters, Aldah said, that Winnipeg-based Egyptians show off where they come from to people unfamiliar with Egypt and its traditions.

"It's very important to share our culture … it makes things easier for us, everyone here."

The pavilion runs through Aug. 10. Salama said she hopes it continues for many years. 

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