A Middle Eastern Affair

The air was warm and carried with it a youthful sense of adventure. It was only nine-fifteen in the morning, but I could already hear the muses whispering in my ear.

The television set had something to tell me that day: Independent Lens presented “Arusi: Persian Wedding,” a documentary about a young, New York couple who traveled to Iran in 2005 to get married.

“… Alex, a photographer, and his American bride, Heather, an art gallery administrator, decide to make a trip from New York City to Iran to have a Persian wedding—just as Alex’s own Iranian father and American mother did in 1968, when Iran and the U.S. were still allies. But traveling to Iran is complicated. As the couple prepares to leave, they must face the mixed reactions of their parents and friends, reports of war in the Middle East, bureaucratic headaches and their own nerves. In ARUSI: PERSIAN WEDDING, Marjan [Alex’s sister] accompanies Alex and Heather and documents their journey on film.” 1

Throughout their trip, Alex photographs his wife and loving family members. Alex’s black and white photography and his cultural experience of Iran encouraged me, after the film, to visit the Levantine Cultural Center, an organization that exhibits Middle Eastern and African arts, literature, music, and cultural as well as educational events in Los Angeles. I had wanted to visit the center for some time now and felt this would be the perfect day to do so. I had wanted to see Baghdadism, an art exhibition by Faris Al-Saffar.

“Al-Saffar, formerly a civil engineer under Saddam who was forced to work on a secret long-range missile program, fled across Iraqi Republican Guard lines into the hands of Allied Forces during the first Gulf War. He was taken prisoner and spent a year and a half in a Saudi Arabian detainee camp in the desert with over 100,000 other Iraqi POWs, before receiving political asylum in the U.S. in 1993.” 2

The exhibition consists of drawings in pen/ink that captures images from the artist’s life in Baghdad. The images flow like Arabic calligraphy (as is the case of the work titled “Nabgha-Tree“) and warm the heart with humor (as in “Childrens-Song“). Each drawing bursts with energy, playfulness, sincerity, and amusement. I am very pleased to have experienced this artist’s promising works of art and look forward to his next installment.

The staff at Levantine was very interested in my visit and took the time to get to know who I am. Jordan Elgrably, the busy co-founder of the center made me feel very welcome. I thank the staff for their time and I hope to visit them again.

Overall, the day was inspiring, just as the muses had proposed earlier that morning. I hope they choose to visit me again soon.

1.Visit the Independent Lens website for Arusi- Persian Wedding at:

2. The Levantine Cultural Center presents Faris Al-Saffar’s Baghdadism: