In the shade of a festival tent, Zahra Hadid delicately painted a henna tattoo onto the wrist and hand of Amy Johnson.
Hadid has perfected her art over the course of 20 years. It was Johnson’s first henna tattoo.
“It’s relaxation,” Hadid said while deftly swirling a flowered design onto Johnson’s hand from her tube of henna. “It lets you talk to each other one-on-one.”
Hadid’s stall was one of several lining the perimeter of Director Park in downtown Portland for the International Muslim Cultural Festival. The one-day event, organized by the Muslim Educational Trust in Tigard, is in its first year.
“It’s good always to bring people together,” Hadid said, finishing Johnson’s tattoo. “We love each other. We’re all Oregon people.”
Johnson, who works for Multnomah County Corrections, said she thought the festival provided a great learning opportunity for Portlanders, “letting everybody know we’re all one.”
The festival has long been in the works and finally came to fruition this year with help from Portland Parks and Recreation.
MET public relations director Rania Ayoub said the festival aims to highlight the diversity within Oregon’s Muslim community.
“I want them to see the beauty of the diversity of Islam,” Ayoub said. “I hope any negativity in people’s minds would shift.”
The trust aims to hold the festival annually and expand to include more vendors and performances.
Ayoub arrived at Director Park for setup sometime around 6 a.m. Saturday morning. She only briefly worried about attendance at the start of the festival.
“I was concerned,” she said, laughing. “But soon enough, people showed.”
Hundreds filled the square shortly after noon.
Children played in the splash zone while families bustled through the open market to get henna tattoos, shop for abayas and crafts, and eat kabobs.
Behireta Corbadzic came to Colorado as a Bosnian refugee in 2000 before moving to Portland, where she attends the University of Western States. She’s studying to be a chiropractor.
She stood in the shade with her Indian ringneck parakeet, Kiwi, on her shoulder.
“I love it. It’s sunny and beautiful,” she said. “It reminds me of Colorado.”
Corbadzic said she found it important to give the greater Portland community opportunities like the festival to meet more Muslims and ask questions. “I hope that they go home happy that they came.”