On a sunny April day, a crowd of people gathered by the Tarfilsay River in southern Lebanon to watch TED Talks projected onto a giant, white screen, shaded by the roof of a park pavilion.
A speaker discussed ideas to develop Lebanon’s rural areas and weed out gender discrimination. A group of volunteers baked flatbread on a wood-fired saj. A vintage Volkswagon van sat parked nearby, transformed into a photo booth for the crowd. Jars of dibis — syrup made from locally-grown dates — lined a red-tableclothed picnic table.
This was the very first TEDxTarfilsay, an event organized by Zaynab Ayyad, a recent graduate of Lebanese American University (LAU) in Beirut. While at LAU, Ayyad volunteered as a photographer and writer for the university-based TEDx event, TEDxLAU (Read more about TEDxLAU on the TED Blog). After graduation, Ayyad longed to bring the thrill of a TEDx event — the connections, inspiration, and new ideas — to her hometown, the village of Tarfilsay.
“I thought I should go back to my roots and start building something up to develop the area there,” she wrote in an email to TEDx. “I thought I should give someone else a chance to develop or get inspired.”
The event, appropriately themed “Back to our roots,” managed to do just that. “The event in general was truly amazing, from the talks to the speaker and the interaction of the audience with the location of the event was amazing,” Ayyad wrote. “What made me happy the most is the feedback I got from the people who attended and from people who heard about it but couldn’t make it to the event. Some of the attendees said, ‘It’s different; it has its own identity; and the location and spirit of the event makes you want more and more.’ Honestly, the feedback of the people motivated me to want to apply again for an event.”
Below, some photos from the event:
For more on outstanding TEDx events in Lebanon, read the TED Blog’s coverage of the recent boom of women-led events in the country.