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Muslim culture exhibit at Omaha Children's Museum is like a field trip to 52 countries

Muslim culture exhibit at Omaha Children's Museum is like a field trip to 52 countries

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You don’t have to travel far to explore the Muslim cultures of 52 countries.

A new exhibit at the Omaha Children’s Museum, called “America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far,” opened Saturday.

The interactive exhibit, which runs through April 19, takes families on a field trip of experiences, from making tea with traditional spices to traveling through the Indian Ocean on a dhow (boat).

The touring exhibit was created by the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. It’s being sponsored in Omaha by the Omaha Children’s Museum and the American Muslim Institute in Omaha.

The goal is for families to learn about Muslim communities not just in Omaha but from across the world.

Hesham Basma, a board member of the American Muslim Institute in Omaha, said the city is home to about 7,000 Muslims, and the exhibit is a way of introducing Muslim cultures and an understanding of the religion itself to people across the state.

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Angela Reza teaches children about spices and tea at the “America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far” exhibition at the Omaha Children’s Museum.

“We would like this message revealed through something like this,” Basma said.

Basma, who attended the opening day with his family, said several of the objects showcased are from local Muslim families who wanted to share more about their culture.

Lindy Hoyer, executive director of the Children’s Museum, said the museum team is excited for the opening for the exhibit.

The Children’s Museum hosted an exhibit on the culture of China in 2018. Hayer said the community enjoyed that exhibit and asked for other similar exhibits, so she decided to bring in the new exhibit as a way for people to learn about Muslim communities.

“This is a unique way to introduce not just ‘a’ culture like China, but Muslim cultures, which are found all over the world,” Hayer said.

Hayer said she also wanted to bring the exhibit to Omaha because of the Omaha-based Tri-Faith Initiative, which is unique in the world.

The Tri-Faith Commons, near 132nd and Pacific Streets, consists of a church, mosque and temple.

“This is not happening in other parts of the world, where you have a Christian church, a Jewish synagogue and a Muslim mosque all co-located and collaboratively looking at things,” Hayer said. “Omaha set the standard for the collaboration, and we’re just excited to bring families in and start to have that conversation.”

Cory McGraw, a Bellevue resident, said the exhibit was neat because his two children were able to learn about and understand Muslim cultures. McGraw said he spent 11 years in the military living in Muslim countries, so the exhibit gave him the chance to talk to his children about his experiences.

“Now they can relate to some of the pictures that I have of the places I have been to,” McGraw said.

Nicole and Brett Hoogeveen from Omaha were also at the museum for the exhibit’s opening day. With their three children, the Hoogeveens scrolled through 3D images of mosques from around the world.

“They’ve really liked it, just seeing some of the different structures,” Nicole said.

Rahul Sualy, an Omaha resident, said he was visiting the museum with his two kids when he heard the exhibit’s opening announced.

“I heard them say the exhibit ‘America to Zanzibar’ and I thought to myself, my dad is from Zanzibar, I have to check this out,” Sualy said.

Sualy said his father and mother, who is from India, both immigrated to the U.S. and live in Omaha. Sualy said many people do not know about Zanzibar, so it’s nice to see the island off the coast of east-central Africa get exposure.

He said he showed his two children Zanzibar’s location on a map, and they found it interesting that their grandfather lived in a place with so many fishing boats.

“I was just proud that my kids got to see and understand where their grandpa is from and see that it’s a real place,” he said.

Sualy said his parents plan to attend the exhibit.

“The world is a big place and sometimes we forget that. Then we go to events like this and we realize how big it is,” Sualy said.

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Correction: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect name spellings for Children’s Museum Executive Director Lindy Hoyer and for Zanzibar. 

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skarst@owh.com, 402-444-1276, @sierra_karst

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