By Danielle Da Silva
For the first time, Egyptian cuisine and cultural entertainment is on the itinerary for the golden anniversary of Folklorama.
The Egyptian Canadian Society of Manitoba is bringing the flavours and folklore of the North African country to the University of Manitoba campus for week one of the annual cultural celebration, Aug. 4 to Aug. 10.
Hala Salama, pavilion co-ordinator, said Winnipeg’s Egyptian community — about 5,000 members strong — has enthusiastically embraced the pavilion concept.
“Everybody loves their mother country. Even if they left there, it’s still part of their heart,” said Salama, who immigrated to Canada in 2001 and currently calls Whyte Ridge home.
“It’s a good opportunity to present to their friends here in Canada their home country, and give them a taste of how they lived, their folklore, their food, their culture, and to get as close as it can be to visiting Egypt.”
In its inaugural year, the organizers of the Egyptian pavilion are hoping to transport visitors to the streets of old Cairo, where they can feast on traditional Egyptian dishes, take in rare cultural performances, and learn about the country’s economic recovery following the 2011 revolution.
“We want them to see Egypt today,” Salama said. “Egypt went through revolution and a lot of unrest, and Egypt today is safe and growing so fast economically.
“We want to share with the people here how that is going and happy we are that the mother country got over the hard time we had and we’re pulling through.”
Salama said a team of about 100 volunteers are ready to welcome visitors to University Centre. The pavilion will be taking place in the multi-purpose room on the second floor of University Centre and can accommodate up to 400 people at one time.
For dinner, Egyptian style shawarma, ful medames (a common Egyptian dish made of fava beans and special spice mix), koshari (a vegan dish consisting of brown lentils, rice, pasta, and a special sauce), and konafa (a traditional sweet) will be prepared fresh by volunteers each evening at a kitchen on site.
While the pavilion has not imported any Egyptian wine, beer or spirits, Salama said visitors can expect a hibiscus beer brewed locally by Devil May Care. A cafe with Egyptian coffee, tea and cold drinks will also be available throughout the night.
Onstage, Salama has recruited Cairo-born performer Mohamed El Sayed, a dancer and percussionist specializing in Sufi whirling, and belly dance performers Accalia, Zafirah, Asra, Kevla, Laura Canfield, Mandy Desjarlais, and Karla Yanina.
And throughout the course of the pavilion, volunteers will be on hand to help visitors have their name printed in hieroglyphics, offer face painting, and capture memories in a photo booth.
“We’re looking forward to making everybody happy around us, and make everyone feel appreciated and welcomed,” Salama said. “This is the feeling you get when you get to Egypt. You’re welcomed with a big smile and an open heart.”
Teresa Cotroneo, Folklorama’s executive director, said they’re happy to have another pavilion representing the Middle East participate in the event.
“As the face of our city continues to change, we look forward to our festival continue to evolve as well,” Cotroneo said.
Parking at the University of Manitoba during the pavilion is free after 4:30 p.m. and lots have been reserved for the event, Salama said.
On Aug. 8, when IG Field is in use, Salama said two lots have been reserved for their pavilion and access to the campus should be taken from Kings Drive, in Fort Richmond.