When Waseda University student Eri Tamazawa ran into a couple from the United Arab Emirates dressed in traditional attire on campus three years ago, she was astonished at how beautiful the clothes were and it made her realize how little she knew about Arabian culture.

“I was dumbfounded,” Tamazawa, 21, said in an interview. “Until then, I only had an image of deserts and camels when it came to Arabian countries.”

The experience led her to organize a fashion show — Tokyo Arabian Night — featuring traditional and modern Arabian clothes, kimono, and fusions of Japanese and Arabian designs.

Nearly 500 people gathered in Tokyo’s Roppongi district to watch the July 26 show, where around 30 amateur and professional fashion models volunteered to showcase the clothes.

The highlight for many was when models took turns wearing Arabian and Japanese wedding dresses. At the end of the show, Tamazawa and other models walked down the runway in abaya incorporating the patterns from traditional kimono.

“Arabian fashion has become my primary passion and I wanted to express the fusion of the two cultures,” Tamazawa said.

The event also included a taiko (Japanese traditional drum) performance with drummers from Japan and the UAE, presentations on fashion by students from the Middle East and hands-on exhibits, such as booths featuring temporary henna tattoos and Syrian food. Japan Middle East Student Conference (JMESC), whose members helped Tamazawa organize the event, plans to donate proceeds to the nonprofit Japan for UNHCR.

JMESC also gave a lecture to participants not familiar with the Arabian culture.

The event had been in the works since December and organizers managed to land a variety of sponsors, including the embassies of UAE, Morocco, Oman and Egypt.

Tawazawa hopes the event will allow participants — models, designers and sponsoring firms — to deepen their understanding of the cultures of Japan and Arabian nations.

“I hope the event will lead people to continue to interact with each other and that might then create something new,” she said, adding that an Uzbekistan model and designer were talking about holding a show featuring Central Asian fashion.

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