Ahlan Wa Sahlan (Welcome): Hospitality in Arabic culture

Ahlan Wa Sahlan (Welcome), Graphic Design by Ahmed Elkhalidi – Yadura Design Studio

ALCASA is hosting a temporary exhibition at the History Trust of South Australia Migration Museum:

Ahlan Wa Sahlan أهلاً وسهلاً (Welcome): Hospitality in Arabic culture

Arabic cultures from all over the world are well-renowned for being masters in generosity when it comes to hospitality. ‘Ahlan wa sahlan’ is a common phrase that will greet all family, friends and strangers and literally translates as ‘welcome, you have arrived!’  

This exhibition delves into the meaning of Arabic hospitality through personal objects and creates a tapestry of stories full of nostalgia, love and pride. The Arabic Language and Culture Association of South Australia (ALCASA) partnered with the History Trust of South Australia to gather these stories from the Arabic speaking communities in South Australia to showcase diversity and enhance belonging. Ahlan Wa Sahlan informs, entertains and educates about the rich history and traditional cultures associated with Arabic hospitality. 

Community consultation and planning for the exhibition has been supported by a MCCSA community connections grant.  

Since 2012, the Arabic Language and Culture Association (ALCASA) has been showcasing aspects of the South Australian Arabic language and culture to enhance belonging and promote intercultural understanding.  

The exhibition will be on show at the History Trust of South Australia Migration Museum from 4 February 2023 to July 2023 (Official Launch held on 11 February).

Objects Tell Our Stories: ALCASA Community Workshop on 28 August 2022

On the 28th of August, we successfully held ‘Objects Tell Our Stories’ workshop at Campbelltown Arthouse, as part of our planning process for the upcoming exhibition at the History Trust of SA Migration Museum in 2023.

As warm as the sunshine we got to enjoy, the warmth of Arabic hospitality welcomed all 24 participants who were enthusiastic about bringing our ambitious project together. The participants represented many parts of the world: Australia, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Germany, China, South Korea and Malaysia. All brought with them their curiosity and unique perspectives on the ‘hospitality’ aspect of Arabic culture.

The workshop was facilitated by Fayrouz Ajaka, Chairperson of ALCASA, and Dr Birgit Heilmann, curator at the History Trust of SA Migration Museum. Following the two presentations about making cinnamon tea by Sahar from Sahar’s Cooking School and Yemeni coffee by Dalal, people shared their fascinating and intimate stories accompanied by the traditional Arabic objects which held sentimental values. An Arabic afternoon tea was also served to provide a holistic experience of Arabic hospitality.

The ideas and passion from the participants inspired and concretised the development of the exhibition, bringing our vision to life. This will continue in our next workshop in near future for shaping the successful exhibition next year.

Below is the reflection from Tania Zebian, an ALCASA member who participated in the session:

The session not only began with a figurative discussion around what Arabic Hospitality ‘looks, feels, smells and tastes like’, but also ended with guests literally tapping into their senses by tasting different traditional drinks—cinnamon teas and an assortment of Arab coffees— and sweets, including Ma`mul, Baklawa and Kaa`k
This was the first discussion of many that sparked ideas for the exhibition, and we are looking forward to bringing it alive by exploring why these objects of Arabic hospitality are important to us to identify commonalities and differences in our experiences.

Event in partnership with the History Trust of SA Migration Museum
Project supported by the Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia (MCCSA) through the Community Connections Program.

By Ann Miao Ng and Soyoo Park, Master of Social Work, University of South Australia: Justice & Society 

ALCASA End-Of-Year Celebration, Sunday 17/12/2017

We are holding the ALCASA End Of Year celebration on Sunday 17/12/2017.

We will start our sessions with the ALCASA Children’s Group graduation party from 1:30 to 3:00 pm including an afternoon tea (bring something to share).

From 3:00 to 4:00 pm, we are delighted to present our very special guest Abdul Nanou. Abdul is an accomplished violinist who will be showcasing the violin in Arabic music while playing well known songs by famous Arabic stars such as Fairouz, Sayed Makkawi and Sabah Fakhre.

ALCASA Language Exchange group will hold their conversation session from 4:00 to 5:00 pm.

Participation is by invitation only, send us a personal message on Arabic In Adelaide if you wish to take part of this creative music experience.

ALCASA Tea Making Workshop, August 2017

If you missed out on our August session, you missed a most entertaining and delightful experience. Who would have thought that making a cup of tea could be so interesting? Like many Australians, I usually make my cup of tea with a tea bag, add boiling water, jiggle the bag a bit and remove it – nothing special. By contrast, the Tea Making Workshop showed us the intricacies of making tea the Moroccan and Iraqi way. Volunteering their services to entertain and inform us for the afternoon were Mohamed (Marrakesh Restaurant in O’Connell Street, North Adelaide), May (Marion Migrant Women’s Group) and Alex Hadchiti, a talented South Australian-Lebanese musician.

Mohamed was resplendent in his traditional Moroccan dress. A tall, striking figure with a wonderful head of curly, black hair. Meanwhile, the mood was relaxed with Alex playing his keyboard and singing a mixture of Arabic and other popular songs. Soon those attending were starting to dance and sing along too. It was great to see the children dancing around the room and I was encouraged by Zain to join in a dabke dance. I need to work on that a bit!

Then, of course, we got down to the serious business of making tea. From behind the beautifully set table with rich tablecloth, shiny metal teapots and exquisite coloured tea glasses, Mohamed demonstrated the Moroccan tea-making ritual. Moroccans drink around 6-7 small cups of this sweet tea every day. Mohammed used one of the most popular loose green teas from Morocco – gunpowder tea. Amusingly, we learned about his friend who was arrested at London airport with a box of the tea in his luggage. All the writing on the box was in Arabic, other than the word “gunpowder”!

This is my memory of instructions. Once the loose tea is in the teapot, it is covered with boiling water and rinsed to remove any dust powder which clouds the tea. Then sugar and hot water are added, after which it is brought to boil on the stove for 3-5 minutes. Add a generous amount of mint to the top of the teapot but do not stir in – no spoon is allowed in the pot as the metal changes the flavour of the tea. Pour tea into glasses from a height and then put back into the pot – do this 3-5 times. Then pour tea from a height and gradually get higher and higher. The tea should have a froth on it. Mint leaves can be added if desired. It is considered extremely rude to refuse the offer of tea in Morocco. You can accept it and not drink it if you wish but never refuse it. But why would you refuse? It is delicious!
    Next, May demonstrated the Iraqi method. Loose black leaf tea is put in a special pot which has a kettle on the bottom and the tea pot on top. May also added cardamom pods, but it could have been plain or with other herbs. The tea is brewed on the stove for 5-10 minutes, over the kettle which is effectively a steamer. The special pot is called a قوري (qoorie) and the tea is then poured into special little decorative glass cups and saucers called إِسْتكان (istikaan). The sugar goes in the cup first and the tea is added to the line on the rim. Stir with a special spoon and hear the “voice” – tinkle, tinkle. An important ritual!

Again, this was excellent tea, and it is used extensively in Iraq to soothe nerves, improve the mood or simply to enjoy any time.
Here is a picture of a typical Iraqi tea glass and saucer with spoon.
All in all, in was a most enjoyable afternoon with a bit of a party atmosphere.


Thank you so much to Mohamed, May and Alex – also to Minerva for making the arrangements.

Sue Young

Photos courtesy of Ahmed Khalidi, Hafiz Nasir, Massimilio Gugole and Doris Abboud

Note: All ALCASA 2017 events are supported by  the Minister of Multicultural Affairs, South Australian Government.




ALCASA Cultural Workshop, July 2017: Exploring Culture and Identity through Visual Arts and Design

On the 16th July 2017, ALCASA welcomed over 40 members and other interested members of the public to an amazing artistic experience devoted to exploring culture and identity through visual arts and design.

The workshop saw Ahmed El Khalidi, artistic director of Yadura Designs, facilitate a 2 hour creative art and design workshop supporting participants to explore ways to express culture and identity creatively through art.

Ahmed opened the session with a presentation exploring the complex concept of ‘Home’ and what ‘home’ means to different people. Ahmed shared his personal story about home and the complexity of him being born and raised in another country and his daughter being born in Australia. Participants where then encouraged to share their own personal stories and discuss how they defined ‘home’.

It was warming to hear a broad cross-section of people from different cultures and backgrounds sharing their personal stories and bridging the gap between culture and identity. Most participants described home as being somewhere that is safe, where you feel comfortable, loved and relaxed; but interestingly we considered whether we could have two homes… is home where you are now, is home really where the heart is?

Artistic resources were provided at the workshop, and individuals and families were encouraged to bring items of personal value that they may like to incorporate into their final resolved piece. These included photos, memorabilia and Arabesque designs to be part of their artwork. It was fantastic to see so young and old expressing their creativity an artistic talent and we were all so surprised and excited about everybody’s final design. It was obvious that all participants enjoyed themselves, and although we stopped for Arabic coffee and sweets, the session ran way overtime and we couldn’t get people to stop painting and creating.

We are very proud of the final products; please have a look at some images  of the session.

Hassan Mekawy






Sunday 21/05/2017, “dabke” cultural workshop

What a great afternoon we had during the ALCASA meetings on Sunday 21/5/2017.  About 50 people attended the sessions for Arabic story reading, “dabke” workshop and Arabic informal conversation.

We started with the Children’s Group and Arabic story reading. The children listened and enacted a story about a “scary” hedgehog قنفذ who was desperate to make friends with other animals. The story allowed exploring the theme of friendship and helped to learn plural forms for certain Arabic words. The story reading session was complemented by fun craft activities in making hedgehogs قنافذ then by some group games  providing opportunities to hear and use again the new words learnt during reading time. There were also hedgehogs قنافذ on the afternoon tea menu! Many thanks to the talented and creative Nadia who organised and led the reading session.

The highlight of the day was, of course, with the ALCASA Dabke Cultural Workshop provided by the local group Zaffit SA. The group dance dabke or dabka is quite popular throughout the Middle East. Usually, it is performed by men and women as a line dance at weddings, parties and community celebrations. Dancers hold hands and move in a rotating circle. It is a proud, energetic and joyful group dance enjoyed by all ages.

During the workshop, four amazing performers from Zaffit SA, helped us, the budding dabke dancers, to learn sophisticated steps and to practice more simple familiar ones. It was  lots of fun and we finished the session wanting to learn and practice more.

Watch this amazing video capturing the spirit of the workshop!

As usual, we ended the afternoon by the Arabic conversation time in the ALCASA Language Exchange group. Many thanks to Doris, Hanaa and Leila who helped to support the conversation in Arabic.

We look forward to seeing everyone again at the movies with the screening of On the banks of the Tigris: the hidden story of the Iraqi music on Saturday 10 June at Mercury cinema.

Fayrouz Ajaka

Note: All ALCASA 2017 events are supported by the Minister of Multicultural Affairs, South Australian Government.