The Central Asian Spring Festival is a celebration of Nowruz (Persian New Year), which is marked by the arrival of spring, and this year I got the opportunity to be a part of this celebration. I don’t usually take part in cultural events, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but what I saw and experienced was simply beautiful and eye-opening.
The event was huge; there were many exhibitions representing a huge range of central Asian countries and cultures and there were hundreds of people attending. It was special to see all these people coming together to celebrate this joyful time of year. I was also surprised by the number of countries that celebrated Nowruz – it indicated to me the influence the Persian culture had in this vast region.
The exhibition for Afghanistan was very beautifully decorated, and standing behind it, I felt this sense of belonging which doesn’t happen very often because I sometimes feel quite detached from my background. On the table, there were many familiar pieces such as Haft Mewa (seven different dried fruits and nuts soaked in water) and Haft Seen (a display of seven symbolic items). There were also unfamiliar items such as Gosh-e feel (a sweet pastry), which to my delight tasted amazing. The table was also adorned with non-food pieces such as musical instruments and clothing items to reflect the culture of Afghanistan for those who are new to it. By representing my ancestral country, I also learnt a lot more about it and also got the opportunity to meet more young Afghanistani girls like myself. It was refreshing to hear their ideas and thoughts on an array of topics, and it made me proud to know that these young girls are working hard to make a positive change.
Similarly to the Afghanistan exhibition, the other exhibitions were also wonderfully decorated. Going round, they all sparked my curiosity. Although there are many unique differences between the countries represented, what grabbed my interest were the similarities they all shared. There were similarities in music, clothing and food. For example, I didn’t know kabuli palaw and mantu were so common in other cuisines (although they had slightly different names)! As well as exhibitions, there were also live performances and games – there was so much to see and do.
Overall, I had a really good time celebrating Nowruz at this festival. I got to make new friends, learn new things and represent Afghanistan. Nowruz is a time for renewal and revival, and this event definitely changed my perception on a lot of things. I’ve learnt a lot more about the positives of my background and it has encouraged me to learn even more. I will definitely be back next year to celebrate once again! If you get the opportunity to go next year, I urge you to visit. It doesn’t matter where you are from – it is an event for everyone to learn about Nowruz and the countries that celebrate it, and it is a lot of fun!