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Palestine history and heritage shines in the heart of London with new expo Open in fullscreen

Diana Alghoul

Palestine history and heritage shines in the heart of London with new expo

More than 15,000 people attended the Palestine expo in London [TNA]

Date of publication: 11 July, 2017

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With over 15,000 visitors, London’s Palestine Expo saw people from all nationalities and religions come together to show solidarity and celebrate Palestinian culture.

Too often, the discourse surrounding Palestine and Palestinians is restricted to political paradigms while events are related to political struggles. But an event over the weekend in London helped showcase the unique and captivating culture the country has to offer.

With over 15,000 visitors, London’s Palestine Expo saw people from all nationalities and religions come together not only to show solidarity for Palestine, but to learn about and celebrate the country's heritage.

The atmosphere was buzzing. New friendships were being formed, old friendships rekindling and families and friends bursting with laughter as they reminisce and embrace the beautiful culture being displayed before them.

“This time a decade ago, we would have never imagined something as big as this happening in Westminster, just across the road from the Houses of Parliament. This is phenomenal,” Hannah Ayman, 46 told The New Arab.

It was a sign of hope. Things have moved forward and will get better.

This time a decade ago, we would have never imagined something as big as this happening in Westminster, just across the road from the Houses of Parliament. This is phenomenal
Art and culture at Pal Expo [Getty]

The expo held a range of discussion panels and various workshops, as well as a shopping quarter where products from Palestinian dates, to solidarity merchandise and traditional Palestinian embroidery were on sale.

“I’m here for the culture,” says 17-year-old Kareem, who is of a Palestinian-Egyptian origin.

“The politics sure is important, but it’s important to stay connected to the culture.”

His 12-year-old sister Sara agreed.

“At school, I try to tell people about Palestine, but they don’t really get it,” she explained. “I love our culture. I love dabkeh, I love the food, I love za’atar, I love knafeh.”

There were also many University students, one of whom, Hyat El-Zebdeh, 20, a medicine student at St Georges University, was starting her own Palestinian Society.

“I realised that there was no Palestinian society at my university, so I decided to start one.

"I’m here to enjoy the culture, but also to get inspiration and make contacts to really make the society the best it could be,” she said.

“We’re trying not to make the society too political, it’s a celebration of Palestine and Palestinian culture, but this in itself is a political statement”, Hyat added.

Palestinian dates were being handed out to visitors at the expo [Getty]

Important discussions on Palestinian identity, the Palestinian cause and what the future may entail also took place.

In the ‘Gaza 10 years of siege’ discussion panel, speaker Mariam Barghouti made a point that often resonates with Palestinians, regardless how much they try to deny it.

“I was asked to speak on the Gaza panel and my first reaction was ‘I’m from Ramallah, not Gaza, why are they asking me to speak on this’, as though Gaza is an entirely different country.”

It wasn’t until she said that, I noticed that I too fell into this trap without realising, as someone with roots from Jerusalem.

This brutally honest statement later started a debate on the need for a unified voice for Palestinians.

However, outside of the expo protests were taking place against the event after several attempts to have it cancelled.

Angry pro-Israelis gathered in protest of the expo after a long campaign aiming to prevent it from taking place backfired.

The protesters were seen chanting anti-Palestinian slogans, along with confronting people who had come out of the expo.

Posters with slogans such as "Palestine exports terrorism" were also put up.  

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