Ramadaniyyat Aims to Bring the Community Together after Two Years Apart

NYU Abu Dhabi’s new Vice Provost for Cultural and Research Engagement has seized the opportunity presented by the longer and more social evenings of Ramadan to offer a cultural and artistic celebration.

From discussing modernity and Arabness, to a culmination of a global collaboration of international musicalities, and an art show commenting on generosity and celebration, Ramadaniyyat looks to bring people together during the holy month, after almost two years apart.

As the brainchild of Nadia El Cheikh, the vice provost for cultural and research engagement, the inaugural Ramadaniyyat serves to demonstrate one of NYU Abu Dhabi’s (NYUAD) institutional missions of increasing the cultural and educational capital of our students, while promoting intercultural  understanding between peoples, societies, and cultures from around the world.

Furthermore, as an event open to the public, El Cheikh wants the wider UAE community to participate in the week-long program in order to increase cultural engagement in the country and demonstrate the University’s commitment to preserving and enriching cultural heritage.

But, perhaps more importantly, she wanted an event that made people “feel at home.”

“This is a great moment for the community to gather again after two years of isolation, but it is also an invitation for people who haven’t experienced Ramadan to partake and understand more about what the holy month is and how Muslims celebrate it. It’s a cultural journey, a gastronomical experience, a chance to come together, and we wanted everyone in our community on campus and in the wider country to join us,” she said.

Nadia El Cheikh, Vice Provost for Cultural and Research Engagement

Organized within the first 100 days of her appointment, El Cheikh recognized the potential in the longer and more social evenings of Ramadan as an opportunity to provide artistic, cultural, and intellectual programming that is regionally relevant and globally recognized. 

El Cheikh has an experienced past of “connecting the dots,” as such she wanted to connect to the community by holding an event that connects to the residents of the UAE, whether fasting or not.

“We have students from all around the world, whether you fast or not, this is a special time and we wanted this to be an experience for them to learn and engage in the cultural practice. Ramadan is one of the most important moments in the yearly calendar for the community, so we want to implicate the University more in this very important cultural environment. We wanted to invite people into this learning environment and welcome them in a celebration,” she said.

The week-long program, Ramadaniyyat, will include live talks, performances, and an exhibition with curated tours for the NYUAD community and the wider public to enjoy during the holy month.

The joint program will feature a series of activities including a talk by The Institute on al-Mutannabi, who is considered to be one of the most influential Arab poets, and tours of The Art Gallery’s ongoing exhibition Parthenogenesis, which will open late to the public throughout the Holy Month. The Arts Center will host a special edition of its contemporary Arab Cinema series, CinemaNa, along with two special musical evenings: a global collaboration between Boom.Diwan x Nduduzo Makhathini x Jean-Michel Pilc, and a performance by internationally acclaimed oud and violin virtuoso Simon Shaheen and his band. A suhoor will be served nightly throughout the week for the NYUAD community and general public to get together. 

She said she was keen to celebrate the return of in-person events that showcase the vibrancy of the NYUAD campus.  

Ramadaniyyat is the ideal opportunity to reach out to our students and staff who will observe Ramadan, and to do something to make them feel that they’re at home. We have also opened the events to the wider public so they can enjoy the Holy Month with the NYUAD community, as we celebrate our communal spaces and our shared values at this special time.”