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Yousef's Reflections on Virtual Al-Waha

Published: August 10, 2020

One of our credit villagers from this summer, Yousef, has kindly shared his reflections on his experience at Virtual Al-Waha. Thank you, Yousef, for your thoughtful contributions to our مجتمع (community)! 


Ahlan wa sahlan ya Waha!!!

أهلاً و سهلاً يا واحة!!!

Friday (الجمعة) marked our last day of Virtual Al-Waha! As a villager who has been to the camp-grounds, this was a very new and exciting adventure to embark on with familiar counselors and friends.

At Al-Waha this summer, we practiced the ultimate physical distancing (الإبعاد الاجتماعي) with our classes being online with no physical interaction. Having siblings (اخوة) who were also in the program definitely helped as we’re able to have conversations about what we did, as well as collaborate together.

Even though we were not together, there was seemingly no issue breaking the barriers I thought we may have faced. Both in our learning groups (المغامرة) as we call it, as well as within our Place of the Day sessions (مكان اليوم) and coffee (قهوة) breaks, I still had the feeling of community which was so prevalent in my past years doing Al-Waha in-person. 

One of my favorite parts about this year’s Al-Waha was Ustaz (أستاذ) Diae’s cooking class (حصه الطبخ). Learning about the dish and then having everyone in the class create their own version was very exciting for me. Personally, I like to cook, so this was definitely my cup of شاي!

A fellow classmate Ammar eating his delicious creation.

Another great experience was presenting my مكان اليوم (place of the day) in front of all of Al-Waha. As it was on the first day of Eid, I presented the city of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.

 As my past years of Al-Waha have, this year also fell right on top of Eid Al-Adha (عيد الاضحى), an Islamic holiday in remembrance of the trials our prophet Abraham (إبراهيم) and his son Ismail (إسماعيل) had to face.

On Eid, it is common to put on your best clothes (ملابس), and try to look as nice as possible. In the morning after the morning prayer (فجر), I got dressed and went with my family to the Eid prayer (صلاة العيد) with الإبعاد الاجتماعي (social distancing) measures in place. It is worth noting that Eid prayer takes place in the morning. In past years of Al-Waha, my fellow Muslim villagers and staff would come together for Eid prayer. 

Me and my siblings after Eid prayer.

After coming home from prayer, I immediately got excited for my مكان اليوم (Place of the Day) presentation. I had finalized my presentation today on Mecca, and gave the villagers and counselors a tour on Google Earth.

Mecca is the holiest city in the Islamic faith, as it is home to one of the most important Islamic sites, the Kaaba (كعبة). We toured the vast and vibrant city, as well as visiting all the cites involved in Hajj (الحج) or pilgrimage, present in the Islamic faith.

My presentation slide on Mecca.


Being so involved in Al-Waha and being able to share information about our respective cities with my fellow classmates and counselors is something that I believe many of us villagers appreciated. Sharing ideas and stories is always a great way to connect with people, even if you don’t know them so well. This is what I find true of Al-Waha, even while being online.

You still get to see new faces, as well as some old ones, and embark on an exciting and shared journey. On this journey, even with some setbacks, together we learn not only about the Arabic language and culture, but about each other. Being able to still have that even while being so far apart is what makes Al-Waha so special.

Thanking the counselors and staff who put this together, as a villager I can definitely say on behalf of all of us that this year was truly a success. Me and my fellow villagers most definitely enjoyed every moment. From Ustaza Farida’s (أستاذة فريدة) Arab Jeopardy, to Ustaz Mokhtar’s (أستاذ محتار) class on Arab hip-hop, we kept Al-Waha just as beautiful and exciting as we left it last year.

Here’s to next year in Bemidji Inshallah!!!