By Ariane Fleischmann
On July 31, 2018, you’ll have a chance to experience an authentic spread of Syrian cuisine and be entertained by bellydancers and drag performers – all while supporting a charity that ensures safe passage of queer refugees into Canada.
When Danny Ramadan first came to Canada as a Syrian refugee in 2014, he initially felt alone and out of sorts. He’s proud of his Syrian heritage and, although he was forced to leave his home, slowly but surely, Ramadan says he fell in love with his new Canadian community.
“Syria has a very rich and long history that has so many identities being accepted,” says Ramadan, who informed us that same-sex marriage was accepted and normalized in the 1800s and welcomed as part of the structure of their communities. “Only over the past hundred years or so has the community become more and more socially and legally conservative when it comes to our gender and sexual minorities.” Upon arriving in Canada, however, Ramadan says he felt welcomed: “My queerness respected.”
Wanting to pay it forward – he arrived as a refugee through a private sponsorship group – Ramadan created a fundraising event called Syrian Extravaganza in 2015. Four years later, it has evolved into An Evening in Damascus.
The capital of Syria, Damascus was a city of splendour, elegance, and vibrancy. Ramadan wanted to portray to Canadians the Syria that he remembers, one of delicious food and delightful entertainment. An Evening in Damascus is designed to recreate that feeling of discovery and community.
Not only will guests be supporting a great cause – proceeds go to Rainbow Refugee to fund the safe passage of Syrian queer refugees to come to Canada – they will have the opportunity to delight in traditional Syrian cuisine and sip fresh Mediterranean wines.
The event is catered by Tayybeh, a group of Syrian refugee women who have found new community here in Canada. Tayybeh means “delicious” in Syrian Arabic, but the word is also used to impart a feeling of good nature. Attendees can expect to dine on shish taouk, a traditional chicken dish, as well as hummus and mutabal (egglplant spread), and light tabbouleh salad.
“I honestly am very proud to have partnered with those women to bring the delicious taste of food from Syria here to Canada,” says Ramadan. “It’s a mixture of heritage cooking that has been going on in Syria for years and years, that represents how detail-oriented our food has become.”
A cash bar with white and rose wine from the Mediterranean is a refreshing complement to the food. You won’t be disappointed with this spread.
Other interactive elements of the evening also pay homage to both Syrian and Canadian communities. Projected on the walls are photos and videos of downtown Damascus. Ramadan, an author and storyteller, will be sharing his story on stage. “I’m also doing a little spoken word poem about being a refugee,” he says.
Ramadan has also invited Karamella Barr and Madam Lola, two local drag queens to entertain guests. Khadiejah and a Middle Eastern belly dancer will roam the room to beautiful Arabic music.
For those who identify as queer and are refugees, there are tickets available at no cost, made possible by donation. Ramadan wants to support queer and trans refugees from all countries, recognizing their shared experience and journey. “For me, it’s about making sure the door is open for people.”
An Evening in Damascus
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre
181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver, BC