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UT will host the fourth annual Arab Fest on Friday and Saturday, October 20–21.

The event, which will be held on the Johnson-Ward Pedestrian Walkway, is free and open to the community. Festivities will take place from noon to 9 p.m. Friday and from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday.

Featured activities during the festival will include traditional Arabic dance demonstrations and performances, live music, cooking demonstrations, a fashion show, a falafel eating contest, children’s activities, handicrafts, jewelry, clothes, games, food from across the region, hookah, henna tattoos, and beauty and salon services.

“Arab Fest celebrates Arab culture and introduces students and community members to food, music, dance, clothes, and handicrafts from the Arab world,” said Erin Darby, UT assistant professor of religious studies and Arab Fest co-coordinator. “The festival allows our local Arab American community to share the best of their culture and traditions, truly reflecting the rich diversity of Knoxville and the university, and provides an opportunity to recognize Arab American–owned businesses and organizations and for students, faculty, and volunteers to build relationships with the local community.”

This is the fourth year of the festival. When students from the UT Dig Jordan study abroad program returned to the US in 2013, they wanted to share their cultural experiences with the UT community. Partnering with the Arab American Club of Knoxville, they kicked off Arab Fest in 2014. The festival continues to grow each year.

“Arab Fest counters misconceptions sometimes held about the region by celebrating the primary components of daily life, such as food, music, family, and friends,” Darby said. “It also highlights that Arab culture does not just exist over in the Middle East, but has a prominent place in Tennessee as well. We look forward to everyone joining us this year as we experience the Middle East here in East Tennessee.”

Related free events this week include:

  • Emile Habibi: I Stayed in Haifa film screening and discussion, 6:30 p.m. today, October 17, in the Hodges Library Auditorium. Reception to follow.
  • From the Middle East to the Smoky Mountains photography exhibit, 6 p.m., Wednesday, October 18, McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture. Light refreshments will be served.
  • Michael Hanna lecture, “The Evolving Lines of Conflict in the Post-ISIS Middle East,” 6 p.m., Thursday, October 19, in the Toyota Auditorium of the Howard Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

The festival sponsors are the Arab American Club of Knoxville and UT’s Ready for the World initiative; College of Arts and Sciences; Haslam College of Business; Council for Diversity and Interculturalism; School of Music; program in Middle East studies; and Departments of Religious Studies, History, Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures, and Political Science; and the Marco Institute.


Erin Darby (865-974-2466,