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Petra Grand Finale to Wrap Exhibition
July 15, 2005

Calvin College has offered a whirlwind of events - culinary and musical evenings, a family festival and even a ballet - to complement the Petra: Lost City of Stone exhibition visiting the college through August 15.

But the best is yet to come according to members of the Petra Steering Committee.

On August 13, from 2 to 10 p.m., Calvin will conclude its five-month celebration of Middle Eastern culture with the Petra Grand Finale.

The event, to be held in the Sultan's Tent, adjacent to the Prince Conference Center where Petra is housed, will be, says Calvin's Souzan Karadsheh, hospitality manager for the college, an appropriate conclusion to the exhibition.

"It's truly going to be a big bash," she says simply.

Modeled on the successful Petra Family Festival, which drew over 800 visitors to the college and the exhibition in May, the Petra Grand Finale will bring together Middle Eastern entertainers, food, vendors, arts and crafts and other activities.

In addition to all the festivities, a free tour of the Petra: Lost City of Stone exhibition is included in the ticket price of $15 for adults and $12 for children.

But the Grand Finale, says Karadsheh, will be on an even bigger scale than the Family Festival and will offer a few surprises.

The entertainment for the finale will be continuous.

The 18 singers, dancers and musicians of the Al-Arz Lebanese Art Group, along with professional belly dancer Deniz, will provide entertainment for the crowd as will professional qanun player Ara Topouzian (the qnaun is an Arabic or Turkish zither).

Vendors will sell Middle Eastern souvenirs, books, music, clothing, décor items, jewelry, and even non-perishable groceries. A wonderful Middle Eastern meal of Kabobs, hummus, tabbouleh, baklava, and Arabic coffee, catered by the Pita House and included in the ticket price, is available all day. Artisans will offer henna art, caricature, calligraphy, and photography. The Dress Petra Photo Booth - a big hit at the Family Festival - will allow visitors to take home a complimentary photo of themselves in Middle Eastern garb.

The Grand Finale will also offer the opportunity for visitors to wear authentic Middle Eastern garb in a fashion show.

Volunteers will model rare pieces from the renowned collection of Sally de Vries as the collector narrates the significance of the clothing.

Like the fashion show, many of the events at the Petra Grand Finale are designed to do more than entertain, Karadsheh said.

"This (Finale) will be fun, but it will also be educational," she says.

For example, educator Michael Shamat, a calligrapher from the Detroit area, will be on hand throughout the event to write visitors' names in Arabic and help them understand the meanings behind the symbols.

"Michael enjoys talking to people about Arabic writing, which is truly an art. At our May festival, Michael's station remained very busy the entire time," says Karadsheh.

Grand Finale visitors also can enter a drawing for items from the exhibition's Souk el-Haddaya gift shop. In fact, the first 200 guests that come into the tent will receive a complimentary poster by the renowned photographer Vivian Ronay. There will also be drawings for many other prizes and gift certificates and Karadsheh says she has some other surprises in store, including "a secret grand prize."

At 9 p.m., the Grand Finale will close with a concert, featuring a variety of Middle Eastern songs and dances as well as a special musical salute to Petra.

Even after five months of Petra-flavored events, Karadsheh is still enthusiastic about the exhibition and about Middle Eastern culture.

"I know that many people have already visited Petra: Lost City of Stone," she says. "The attendance numbers have been high and it's been really well-received. So to pair that (excitement) with a flavorful cultural experience really completes our mission here. I'm very pleased Calvin College has offered a wide variety of events that allowed people to experience the Middle East."

~written by media relations staff writer Myrna Anderson