Western features Pakistan in the last Cultural Cafe

William Turkington, Courier Staff

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The Center for International Studies hosted their last Cultural Café of the academic year featuring the country of Pakistan in the Heritage Room of the University Union on Monday.

The crowd of 70 or so consisting of faculty members, Western staff, and students enjoyed an authentic Pakistani lunch prepared by Sodexo, with the recipe provided by Muhammad Omer, the afternoon’s presenter. The lunch featured briyani rice with chicken, along with rice pudding.

Omer is currently completing his master’s degree in computer science at Western and is graduating this May. He also works as a graduate assistant for the Center for International Studies, the organization who puts on these events.

Omer started his presentation by telling about the geography of Pakistan. He explained that the “stan” in Pakistan means “land” in Persian, which is why we see so many countries in the region have “stan” in the name of their country.

Omer said that English was the official language of Pakistan but Urdu was considered as the national language. “Only 10 percent of Pakistani’s speak Urdu because there are over 60 languages spoken in the country,” Omer said.

Pakistan has a very interesting national animal, the Markhor, which is a sort of mountain goat with curly horns. Markhor means “snake eater.”

“The reason why it’s called ‘snake eater’ is because there is an animosity between it and snakes,” Omer said. “This animal will find and kill all snakes.”

Omer then talked about the rich history of Pakistan’s culture and how it formed throughout its history.

“In the past few thousand years there have been Turks, Afghans, and Greeks invading and when they do they bring their own culture,” Omer said. “Over the centuries it infused and became its own beautiful culture.”

Omer explained how different terrain in different parts of Pakistan shape its culture especially when it comes to food. The Sindh province specializes in seafood because it is a coastal area; whereas in the Balochistan province, lamb is the preferred meat.

The province of Punjab, where Omer and 56 percent of the Pakistani population is from, shares much of its culture with India because of its proximity and history with India.

“Punjabi culture is one of the oldest in the world,” Omer said. “The scope, history, and density of the culture is vast.” During the question and answer portion of the presentation, the crowd seemed very interested in Pakistani wedding practices, and asked Omer about the proceedings of the ceremony, what gifts to the bride and groom are considered normal and how the bride and groom are paired up.

Unlike Western culture, it’s the elders who pick the bride and groom,” Omer said. “The ceremony can take an hour or several days depending on the families.”

If you’re interested in getting to know foreign cultures more, look out for Cultural Cafes like this next year. The Center for International Studies is also hosting its last International Coffee Hour of the semester on May 2, from 3-4 p.m. in Horrabin 1 which will feature the country of South Korea.

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