Arabic Table: Culture and Coffee Cup Fortunes

By ARIELLE GORDON

Every Friday afternoon, a cozy room in Cossitt Hall fills with Arabic culture as students, faculty, and community members gather for an hour to enjoy a cup of traditional coffee—“Qahwah”—and pleasant conversation.  Everyone gathers for the weekly Arabic Table, led by Arabic Cultural Program Coordinator (CPC)  Mahadyia Maher Abu Dalal. The event is open to anyone, and everything is in English, but Abu Dalal will teach you how to spell and pronounce your name in Arabic.

Cartoon by Lo Wall

“Learning about Arabic has been really interesting,” Costa Rican exchange student Veronica Campos said. “It was not something I initially planned to do at CC.” Arabic Table is new to Colorado College, as this is Abu Dalal’s first year as the Arabic CPC. Each meeting has a discussion about a modern Arabic topic, followed by another activity relating to an aspect of culture.

According to Abu Dalal, her favorite part of each Arabic Table meeting is the discussion, “especially having people from different nationalities, which enriches the discussion with different point of views,” Abu Dalal said. Students who have taken Arabic at CC, international students who are familiar with other cultures, and other students and community members who are interested in learning more about Arabic and the culture all attend Arabic Table.

Last week, the discussion centered around Muslim and Arab stereotypes in American TV and film. The conversation lasted for about 30 minutes, and everyone in attendance participated enthusiastically. The following activity was a Tasseography demonstration led by Abu Dalal. She read each person’s fortune from the grounds left in their coffee cup. According to Abu Dalal, there are five regions of the cup to examine, and symbols in each area correlate to a different aspect of a person’s life. For example, if there is a bird or horse shape in the right side of the cup, then the person will have good luck in the near future. A snake or worm shape means that trouble is likely coming. “It was the first time anyone had read my fortune,” Campos said. “The symbolism that she used to read our fortunes was cool to learn about.”   

Although she is relatively new to CC, Abu Dalal has already become involved in many campus activities to share her culture, including events during International Education week. “I lead the Arabic cuisine in the international lunch day, the Arabic challenges in the international scavenger hunt, and the ‘What do you know about Palestine?’ event,” Abu Dalal said. In addition to leading informal social events for students on campus, Abu Dalal teaches two Arabic language adjuncts. Elementary and Intermediate level classes have been taught throughout first semester.

Students at CC can also take two blocks of Arabic to fulfill the language requirement. For students looking to further pursue their study of Arabic, they can minor in Arabic Language, Literature, and Culture, or complete a thematic minor in Arabic and Islamic Studies.

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