Life is around you and in you. Visit the rooftop gardens of Michigan

The Arab American National Museum (AANM) is poised to reopen its cultural gem for the summer, the Al-Hadiqa: AANM Heritage Garden, on Saturday, June 8. Nestled atop the museum, this verdant oasis is not just about flora; it’s a living testament to the rich tapestry of Arab American heritage. 

Originally launched in June 2023, the garden features plants that reflect the culture and history of Arab Americans and includes audio stories of Metro Detroit Arab Americans. Visitors can scan a QR code on their phones to hear their stories. 

The 2024 reopening celebration will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public. The garden will be open to visitors throughout the summer. Registration for the opening event is required. 

As the only Arab American museum in the United States, the AANM has long been a beacon of cultural preservation and celebration. Last spring, the museum opened the Al-Hadiqa to extend its embrace of nature and showcase the integral role of gardening and agriculture in Arab American identity. 

Most items in the outdoor rooftop garden come from donations of seeds and cuttings, both from local plants that the Arab American community has adopted into its culture as well as those from the Middle East. 

As Susan Thwing explains, the AANM opened in 2005 and features a courtyard, library, and auditorium. 

To create the garden, AANM partnered with the local East Dearborn community and the Garden Juju Collective to develop the design and stories in the space. Local gardeners donated seeds to grow in the garden. 

By incorporating a combination of native Michigan plants as well as those found across the Arab world, the garden represents a uniquely Dearborn and Detroit-based Arab diaspora, organizers said. 

The genesis of Al-Hadiqa speaks to the deep-rooted connection between the Arab American community and the land. 

“I believe it is a metaphor for our heritage to be surrounded by beautiful nature and to have gardens in our own backyards. The garden is a way to uplift our stories,” said Fatima Al-Rasool, the museum’s public programming coordinator. 

Al-Hadiqa, which translates to “The Garden” in Arabic, is more than just a collection of plants—it’s a living testament to the rich heritage and enduring resilience of the Arab American community. 

From Aleppo peppers to Syrian peas to eggplants and traditional spices, the garden features plants that can be used as a living exhibit. The garden also includes Michigan native pollinator plants to attract beneficial bees and insects for plant growth. 

As visitors wander through the garden, they’ll also discover QR codes nestled among the foliage, offering glimpses into oral histories and personal reflections shared by the community. 

For Al-Rasool, Al-Hadiqa is a symbol of resilience and renewal. “It’s very much in our genes and ourselves to plant and grow our food and garden,” she explained. “The garden not only celebrates our cultural heritage but also highlights the resilience of our community.” 

During the reopening celebration, guests will explore the garden and engage with the rich tapestry of Arab American culture through a variety of activities and exhibits. The opening celebration promises something for everyone to enjoy, from crafts and refreshments to scavenger hunts and open-house tours. 

“The event will fully activate the museum’s space with activities on every level,” Al-Fasool said. Al-Rasool said Al-Hadiqa represents more than just a garden—it’s a place where stories come to life. 

“The garden is a testament to the beautiful stories in our neighborhood,” she said. “It’s a way for the Arab American community to stay connected to their heritage and to uplift the stories of those who have come before us.”

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