Migrant Workers’ Day 2013 Recap

The bright blue sky beamed overhead as local migrant workers celebrated Migrant Workers’ Day at Souk Al Tayeb. It was a perfect day for some good food, music and company.

On Saturday, May 4th, Migrant Workers Task Force (MWTF), in conjunction with Souk El Tayeb, the International Labor Organization and the Danish Embassy, hosted the second annual Migrant Workers Day. This event is in celebration of International Labor Day and encourages cultural exchange through food, music, and handicrafts from local migrant workers’ home countries. This event wraps up a week of events bookending International Labor Day.

Under the red awnings at the end of Souk El Tayeb, migrant workers organized a veritable feast by country of origin. Visitors ate their way from Madagascar to Ethiopia and Sudan, from Kenya to Nepal to the Philippines, all countries represented by migrant workers here in Beirut. Plates were piled high by ladies eager to share a taste of home, and I for one was happy to nosh with such friendly people. Some food was even prepared on-site, such as the Nepalese “momo,” delicious steamed dumplings filled with chicken. Savory and spicy fare was readily enjoyed, such as Sudanese “asidra”, a soup served with “kisra”, a spongy Sudanese flatbread, as well as crunchy Madagascar spring rolls and fried potatoes and Filipino “pancit,” a rice noodle dish. As the day carried on, visitors cooled off with melon and avocado ice pops.

Ikhlass Jomaa, a 10-year resident of Beirut from Sudan, enjoyed the opportunity to share her cuisine, as well as Sudanese henna. Several market-goers sported Jomaa’s henna artistry, as well as traditional Sudanese accessories she had for sale. Also featured were textiles and handicrafts from Ethiopia, and paper baskets from the women’s prison.

While there were some technical difficulties that temporarily delayed the music and dance performances, the crowd was invigorated by the live performances. The first group, in full butterfly-sleeved dresses and proudly waving the Philippine flag, were ready and waiting for over an hour, and when they took the floor they brought graceful steps and fun with a hat dance and flag waver. A Sri Lankan duet followed, livening up the pace with their traditional dance, smiling and even giggling in the moment. The Ethiopian duet also got the crowd clapping with their confident swagger and ease, with a third dancer temporarily joining the duo’s rhythmic shoulder-shrugging in tempo with the beat. A solo Nepalese act rounded out the show with a lively performance that had children dancing along with her along the perimeter of the performance space.

Many thanks to the booth vendors, performers, food preparers—without them, there would be no Migrant Workers’ Day. Thanks also to the International Labour Organization for funding the project, as well as the Danish Embassy and Souk El Tayeb for their support.

Written by Jennifer Newton, with the support of the whole MWTF team.

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More pictures will be posted soon.

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