The cultural spirit radiated from every corner at the American University in Dubai (AUD) during its recent International Night.

Students, faculty and staff gathered to celebrate the university's rich cultural diversity. Running under the theme ‘A dialogue between cultures,' the event transformed the campus into a miniature map of the world with cultural depictions of a number of countries.

Thirteen cultural and special interest student clubs presented folkloric dance, music and fashion performances. Each club portrayed its country's unique customs at its booths, through elaborate costumes, performances and traditional cuisine or a combination.

Traditional themes

Students said the night gave students, staff and guests a chance to celebrate their own as well as others' cultures.

"It is important for me as a Palestinian, whose country is suffering through infinite turmoil, to celebrate my heritage," said Ameen Al Hajj, marketing student at AUD and member of the Palestinian Cultural Club. "Our cultural traditions are what make us truly appreciate our country."

An Inter-AUD Cultural Competition organised by the Student Government Association featured activities highlighting diversified traditional themes such as an Emirati play based on the folkloric story of a fisherman and a ghost, an Egyptian Dervish dancer, an Indian wedding ceremony, traditional and modern Pakistani dances as well as an Azerbaijani dance traditionally performed by the people from the mountains.

The Pakistani Cultural Club won the competition with their extravagant booth display and impressive performances.

For a better cause

However, the night not only worked as a channel for students to express their cultural heritage. It also united students who shared a common interest and helped them spread word about their cause. One example was the Environmental Club.

Standing in one of the larger booths beautifully decorated with greenery and tables filled with informative brochures about the environment was Heba Abu Yousuf, business student and member of the AUD Environmental Club. Abu Yousuf said the aim of her club was to spread awareness.

"We want to encourage students to recycle," Abu Yousuf said. "But to do so, we must provide everyone with the right information. The simple reason for why many things don't take effect is the lack of awareness, and through this stand we're trying to change that."

Meanwhile, Hasnain Sarfraz, electrical engineering student at AUD, was one of three students spreading awareness about Islam. As a member of the Islamic Awareness Community, Sarfraz emphasised that his group's goal was to educate guests about Islam's teachings.

"The primary religion of the UAE is Islam, and so it would be useful for its residents to learn about the religion," he said. "I hope we sell a lot of books because if we're selling the books it means people are reading them. We just want people to discover and gain a deeper understanding of the true meaning of Islam."

We all unite

The night closed with a live performance of the popular Arab Union song sung by a group of students representing several Arab countries including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Palestine.

As their melodic voices filled the air, guests stopped whatever they were doing to catch a rare moment reflecting true cultural harmony.