Arabic Influence on the British Culture
By: Pamela Dimitrova /Arab America Contributing Writer
The United Kingdom is a pool of different nations and cultures – including the Arab. Arab artists and culture have always been present and influenced the cultural scene of the country, however in the past few years it has had something of a ‘golden age’. From ambitious multi-arts festivals to restaurants and clubs having ‘Arabian Nights’, an increasingly diverse audience is engaging with emerging culture from the Middle East.
Arabic food is popular in the UK for many reasons – from it’s richness and diversity to the different taste of the meals, result of the usage of exotic spices, foreign fruits and vegetables and the unique combination of these ingredients.
Many Arab dishes are more than familiar to the British people, as they have been a part of the world’s diet for long time. Pita bread dipped in hummus or tahini, a ground sesame paste, is one of the most popular ones. Falafel is also well-known to the people on the island, being part of almost every restaurant’s menu and a number of shops.
The usage of specific spices is also becoming more and more integrated into the every day life and the culture of the kingdom. Cardamom, cumin and coriander – spices who were mainly used in the Middle Easter recipes – are now becoming a must on the shelf of every cooking lover.
International artist have been taking inspiration (and sometimes whole bits and pieces) from Arab artist and music is not something new. The unique sound of the musical instruments and rhythms originating from the Arabic countries have been entertaining the British listeners for a long time and many artist recognized this, grabbing the opportunity to include it in their future songs, creating an interesting mix of Western and Eastern sounds.
It’s not foreign for artist to also include Arabic language in their songs – even the popular band Queen did this in some of their songs such as ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Mustapha’.
The interest from the British people grows not only in connection to Arabic Music, but also to artist from Arabic countries. The event company ‘Marsm’ unite he vibrant cultural offerings of the Arab world with UK audiences, hungry for new sounds and fresh perspectives. In the last decade they have built an expansive network of high profile venues and festivals across the UK. This has enabled us to provide a platform for a host of extraordinary talent from the Arab world including Marcel Khalife, Mashrou’ Leila, DAM , Autostrad, Lena Chamamyan, Cairokee, Emel Mathlouthe, Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, 47Soul, and Yasmine Hamdan.
There are number of festivals in the United Kingdom celebrating the Arab culture and nations. One of the most popular ones is the Shubbak (meaning ‘window’ in Arabic) Festival – London’s largest biennial festival of contemporary Arab culture. Founded in 2011 by the Mayor of London, Shubbak is now an independent charity whose founding Chair was Omar al-Qattan. Shubbak connects London audiences and communities with the best of contemporary Arab culture through ambitious festival programmes of premieres and commissions of visual arts, film, music, theatre, dance, literature and debate. We work with arts institutions in London and internationally.
There are other celebrations such as the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, BBC Arabic Festival, the Edinburgh Arab Festival and the SAFAR Film Festival, which the UK’s only film test focused solely on Arab cinema and is a showcase for the cream of a Middle Eastern film.
Seeing the advantages of learning the Arabic Language and also about the MENA countries, now almost all universities offer a degree connected to it. There are number of options to study your interest combined with the foreign language such as International Relations with Arabic, Arabic and a Modern European Language or just pure Arabic.
Arabic much more accessible than many people think, but it is also in great demand in the country. The fact that several government departments, the armed forces and many businesses are prepared to pay for their employees to study it to an advanced level because of the severe shortage of Arabic graduates, shows that for schools and students alike, there are many good reasons to choose Arabic. This is all the more true now that the Qatar Foundation and the British Council are offering grants to support schools wishing to introduce Arabic.
Fashion and Beauty
Arabic influence is also very visible in the fashion and the beauty industry in the United Kingdom. More and more Arab and Arab British influencers, models and designers enter the industry, bringing diversity and fresh mindset. Just last year London Fashion Week brought ‘Stories from Arabia’ to life, showing the collections of nine designers with roots in the Middle East and North Africa. Their collection were inspired by the traditional colourful embroidery of Palestine and Jordan; the traditional Moroccan caftan; and the unique spirit of the Arabic culture.
A lot of worldwide brand also recognize the religious and traditional Arabic fashion, incorporating it into their own collection. Designers like Dolce&Gabanna, Oscar de la Renta and Tommy Hilfiger released ‘modest-wear’ range not long time ago, expanding the Muslim fashion market in the Kingdom.
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