Amidst the chaos of Beirut, a city torn between political activism and partying, lies a community which gathers monthly, in its hidden gems. Afikra, which translates to ‘on second thought’, is a platform initiated by Mikey Muhanna, whose main mission and focus is to “explore the other rooms of the house”.
The Afikra community gathers monthly to learn and answer questions which its members have always had in regard to Arab history and culture. It originally started on a rooftop in Brooklyn when a group of friends decided to communally learn about their own heritage.
Muhanna explained in the latest Afikra event on Sunday, September 3, that there is a certain need for this platform to be formed. He stated that Afikra exists as a third way to engage with Arab identity, the second and first being either “partying with Arabs” or “political activism”. Afikra, a place for people to ask about and answer issues regarding Arab culture, grew as a third and almost necessary way for Muhanna to engage with his own heritage.
This is how Afikra was born. It grew from a group of 10 people on a rooftop in Brooklyn to fully-packed rooms with curious individuals all over the globe. It has expanded to now host monthly events in New York City, Washington D.C., Montreal, Dubai, Beirut, and most recently, London.
Every event consists of two volunteers who present their research. These volunteers are encouraged to explore a topic they are not familiar with and answer questions they have been curious about for a long time.
In the last Afikra event in Beirut, which took place at Onomatopoeia: The Music Hub, Leen Sadder, one of the speakers of the evening, explored the origins and history of coffee in the Arab world, as she had been curious about it for a long time. Dima Tannir, another presenter, also answered a question she had been asking since she was a child.
“Who owns this house?”, she asked at the beginning of her presentation. Her curiosity stems from the Heneine house, its residents, Dr. Dahesh, and the cult who followed him.
The growth of this community over the past two years is a marker for one thing: we all are curious. This platform has helped build a community that the Arab world needs. It has built a space that allows for a proper, unbiased, and unfiltered education that is now home to a curious crowd, merely seeking answers to their questions.
That being said, Afikra is looking to expand into even more chapters, building a home for culture and curiosity in unexplored cities of the world.