Sahioun plays nay alongside siblings

Celine Sahioun plays ney, a flute, along side siblings Anthony, Sarah for guests to enjoy March 28, 2023 at Mahon Public Library

The Texas Tech Arabic program offers special Service Learning (SL) sessions, where students as well as Lubbockites are welcome to come learn Arabic culture, language and customs. The sessions have been ongoing for the past year, beginning in area public schools, and are now held at the Mahon library two days a week.

Rula Al-Hmoud, director and of the Arabic program at Tech, says hosting the event twice a week offers more opportunities for different groups of people to have a chance to learn. Sessions occur on Saturdays from 9 to 10 a.m. as well as Tuesdays from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Al-Hmoud has been a in the Arabic program for 10 years and the director for eight, and she encourages anyone to come and learn, no matter their prior knowledge.

“Arabic culture is very rich in history and rich in traditions and cultures,” Al-Hmoud said. “Service learning gives students that are taught in the class an opportunity to spread what they are learning with others.”

During an SL session, people are seated at tables with at least one Arabic program student who helps guide them into learning the basics of the language: including the alphabet and pronunciations. Arabic music and food are also offered and displayed for anyone who attends.

“When my students are teaching, they are learning at the same time and a lot of them realize when they are teaching this is something that they want to do in the future. It’s inspired them,” Al-Hmoud said.

Siblings Sarah, Celine and Anthony Sahioun, who were born in Houston and raised in Lebanon have begun playing the Oud, Nay and Darbuka at sessions, singing traditional songs that include audience participation. The three siblings are fluent in Arabic, English and French.

Sarah, incoming master's student with an undergraduate degree in biochemistry, plays the Oud and said the programs here offer an easy transition to continue their involvement in the diffusion.

“The culture of Arabic, music-wise, is very different than it is presented today,” Sarah Sahioun said. “It's one of the richest and most valuable cultures. It’s different, so you are exposing yourself to something unfamiliar, but the way it is being presented here with the 1-on-1 help simplifies it in a way that anyone can make the best of it.”

Specific media portrayals and cultural stereotypes can shed a bad light on what it means to be Arabic, making continued learning so important, said Lara Aljazarah, a third-year biology student from Dallas.

“We are normal people too, we are not fighting and doing that type of stuff as much as it is shown,” Aljazarah said. “Just because it is from a completely different side of the world doesn’t mean it is something you shouldn’t be involved in and learn more about.”

Fellow Arabic students Isabel Foster, second-year global studies major from San Antonio, and Nesreen Jallad, a first-year landscape architecture major from Amman, Jordan, agree that the culture is not something to be scared of but rather embrace.

“Even though I am in the states, I want to keep my culture and heritage there,” Jallad said. “I want to be able to end the one-dimensional stereotypes and show everyone how beautiful it is.”

“What makes the program at Tech so unique is Al-Hmoud. She is so committed to making sure she incorporates not only speaking but food and culture days. She puts her entire soul into the program and its students,” Foster added.

Adam Rodriguez, a fourth-year global studies and political science student from Barstow, severs as the secretary of the Arabic Language Student Organization and said their goal is to be advocates for involving people on campus in knowing the basics of the language.

“We try to spread as much awareness as we can in the community,” Rodriguez said. “I have come to the library 6 times just to teach people and it is fun to see those who are trying to reconnect with a part of their culture and those who are just curious about learning it.”

“The passion of this program and our spreads, it is the reason I joined and I know it has the power to resonate with pretty much everyone who is willing to come in and listen,” Mason Moseley, fourth-year global studies student from the Woodlands, said. “In West Texas, it can be easy to close off yourself from other cultures, and we’re just trying to make sure we help people keep an open mind.”

Al-Hmoud encourages anyone to come and sit in an SL session, they will walk out gaining a whole new perspective on something they maybe had no idea about.

“As a community, Lubbock is very kind and thirsty for information because there are not a lot of Arabic people here and many don’t know what the culture is,” Al-Hmoud said. “So anytime we get the opportunity to share our experience and knowledge we hope it will close the gap and create a truly global community.”

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