Monday, November 23, 2009

"YAAA Conference"

Last month I was given the honor of presenting my music / poetry at the closing ceremony of the Yale Arab Alumni Association Conference on Urban Sustainability (October 2 - 3) at The American University of Beirut. This was a ground-breaking event in that the organizers were able to bring together some of the best & brightest from academic, architectural, entrepreneurial, environmental, & cultural circles to debate the future of the Middle Eastern city in its many forms. Each of the panel discussions were inspiring in their own way, leaving everyone who attended with a renewed sense of appreciation for where they were from, where they lived, &/or where they wanted the Arab world to be ... and what better place to host such a significant conference than the fabulous city of Beirut - where history, modernity, culture, & innovation converge in a uniquely Middle Eastern / Mediterranean way.

I may be bias, but the panel on education was of particular relevance in my opinion, since it directly addressed the future of the Arab city & how to best prepare the MENA youth for the challenges that lie ahead (remember - upwards of %60 of the population in the Arab world is under 30) ... and it featured one of the star panelists of the event - a man who was recently named one of the 500 most influential Muslims on the planet - my brother, Mohamad Abdullatif Chakaki.

My show was at a lovely little restaurant on Rue Makdissi called Walimat Wardeh - an old Lebanese house turned restaurant/pub ... A couple hundred friends/fans packed the smoke-filled, humid space as I did my thing on the mic - covering a range of topics that I felt represented the inter-disciplinary goals of the YAAA Conference.

Lea Hakim, one of the dedicated conference organizers, had this to say about my show:

"It was an honor to have the privilege of your performance in the conference party at Walimat Wardeh. Your performance and the vibe that night were electric!"

Electric ... maybe thats why they call me Ohmz =P

When I was done, I slowly slipped out of the restaurant & walked over to a shawerma spot on Rue Hamra to fill my empty belly ... Pita bread, garlic mayo, pickles, & tender slices of marinated/roasted chicken to be exact ...

Prior to leaving Beirut, I made sure to indulge in one of the most amazing culinary experiences in the city - Mayrig Restuaruant in Jemmayzeh - if you don't know, you better ask somebody ... This Armenian establishment is top-notch, & is just one more reason to love Lebanon & its diverse blend of culture/cuisine. All the dishes are prepared to perfection, & presented in small portions that are shared throughout the table - salads, fattehs, kibbehs, kiftehs, soujouks, & kebabs ... Two of my favorite dishes there are the rice kibbeh (kibbeh prepared with rice instead of bourghul), and the cherry kabob (sweet/savory gooey goodness) ... To top it all off this ice-cream lover got to taste 4 unique twists on the classic desert - marzipan, rose petal, halawah/halvah, & karawyeh (again, if you don't know - you better ask somebody!) ...

3iiish Feast!!!