taste of the middle east

Who we are

Taste of the Middle East

A multifaceted not-for-profit organization.

VISION

Creating connections through music, art, cuisine and culture. We believe that inclusivity strengthens communities and diversity is a pillar to any culture.

 

MISSION

Warmth and generosity are the bedrock of Middle Eastern culture. Food and music are the foundation of our hospitality. Taste of the Middle East is a multifaceted not-for-profit organization with a mission to create unique and unforgettable experiences celebrating the Middle Eastern culture with our site check here, art, music and cuisine while adding to the diversity of Toronto!

 

EVENT MANAGEMENT TEAM

Hamsa Diab Farhat

Founder.
Festival Director and Producer

Naji Rizeq

Festival & Logistics
Director

Hicham Farhat

Co-Founder
Director of Operations

Courtney DeCaire

Public Relations
& Media Director

Margarita Benyammine

Digital Media
Manager

Salima Jivraj

Corporate Strategy Director (Consultant)

Layth Hanna

Art
Director

Hala Soliman

Marketing
Manager

Rand Al Rubaye

Community Outreach
& Volunteers Manager

Ola Salah

Vendor
Manager

Seevana Hawari

Vendor
Manager

Ahmad Issa

Media Relations
Manager

Ali Farhat & Dean Farhat

Leaders in Training

Supporting & Consulting Team

(Sponsored Efforts)

Ali Sulaiman

Creative & Branding
Director

Margarita Benyammine

Digital Media
Manager

Nick Merzetti

Creative
Photography

Ali Al Lami

Video
Production

Ali Kheir Eddine

Video
Production

Event Support Volunteers

ADVISORY BOARD

Anas Saltaji

Managing Partner, Canadian Franchising Group

Joanna Sable

Food Industry Consultant, Chef, Social Media Promoter

Lina Duque

Lina Duque, MBA, Social Media Strategist

Lara Zahabi-Bekdash

Physician, Bioethicist, Global Health Scholar

Mark Strong

Radio personality and In-arena host for the Raptors

Moe Rai

Film Maker and Entrepreneur

Raja G. Khouri

Raja Kouri Conversations

Ramy Botros

Show Host and Community Leader

Rita Houkayem

Policy Analyst

Rania Younes

Director of Operations – Canadian Arab Institute

Stephen Murdoch

Vice President, Public Relations, Enterprise Canada

Wafaa Al Zaghal

Founder of The Canadian Arabic Orchestra

Aseel El-Baba

Public Relations Manager

Yusuf Yenilmez

CEO Zgemi Group of Companies

TOME 2019

BECOME
  A VOLUNTEER

Hamsa Diab Farhat

Founder
Festival Director and Producer
Hamsa is the Founder and Event Producer for Taste of the Middle East 2018. Hamsa is also the owner of Consider It Done Events & Marketing. She holds a business marketing diploma from Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology. She is an efficient and creative professional with a “Can Do” attitude, focused on the coordination and execution of successful events and marketing projects. Hamsa chose the Middle Eastern Community, as her niche market, where she saw an opportunity to help push her business forward. As an entrepreneur, Hamsa is committed to self improvement through volunteering and education. Hamsa serves on the Event Management Committee for The World Lebanese Cultural Union. Hamsa also serves on the Board of Directors of IDRF, The International Development and Relief Foundation, a renowned Canadian charity that helps to empower the world’s disadvantaged people. A passionate, dedicated and committed, participant to charity work and to her business, Hamsa has taken that same passion and enthusiasm and channeled it towards Middle Eastern food. Her hamsafoodie instagram has become a powerful platform to showcase a variety of Middle Eastern restaurants in Toronto. With a modest following, she strives for continuous improvement, with the goal of becoming an influencer in the Middle Eastern food industry through food blogging and restaurant events. A dedicated mother of two boys, Hamsa is as equally committed to her family and the education of her children as she is to her career.

Naji Rizeq

Festival & Logistics Director
Naji is an Event Manager at Taste of the Middle East. Naji holds a Special Events Management Diploma from George Brown College. He is currently completing his Tourism and Hospitality Diploma also through George Brown College. Naji is very active in the community and is passionate about his volunteer work. He is a valued member on the event management committee for the Toronto Palestine Film Festival, in which he served for the past three years. Through this experience he gained essential tools needed to advance his experience in event management. As one of the main organizers for the successful concert for Trio Joubran, Naji has undertaken various roles in many successful events in Toronto and abroad such as “Made in Jordan”, the Toronto International Film Festival, and the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo to name a few. Naji also participated as a brand ambassador to Facebook Canada, Tiger Towels, Mississauga Waterfront Festival, and the Toronto Food Truck Festival with Tigris Events Inc., an award winning event management company. Naji has worked with a staffing agency in Toronto “DGS Events” for the last three years where he participated in conferences, festivals, corporate events and private functions. Prominent clients included RBC, Rogers Cup (Tennis Canada) and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. In the food and beverage industry, he worked for Daniel et Daniel who are leaders in the catering scene in Toronto.

Hicham Farhat

Co-Founder
Director of Operations
Hicham is our Business Operations Director. With well over 10 years of experience as a real estate agent with Century 21 Leading Edge Realty Inc, Hicham is a veteran in his profession. As the winner of the Centurion award for the past three years, he has dedicated himself to excellence in various aspects of real estate. Passionate about his work and going the extra mile to help his clients find their dream home, Hicham is knowledgeable about local laws on the buying and selling of property. He is devoted to his clients and community and never ceases to back down from a challenge. His well rounded knowledge base has been extended to the restaurant industry in which he possesses over 23 years of experience. His expertise in customer service is one of the many qualities in which he takes pride, that will make The Taste of the Middle East an unforgettable experience for Toronto. Hicham is focused on business development and will provide hands on support for this festival. Hicham holds a Business Administrative Studies diploma from Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology.

Courtney DeCaire

Public Relations & Media Director
Courtney is our Public Relations Director focusing on telling our story and the mainstream media.
As Enterprise’s public relations project manager, Courtney guides successful events and festivals, functioning flawlessly anywhere from behind the scenes to greeting people with a smile at the front door. Courtney’s philosophy is that proper preparation is crucial to ensuring events run smoothly. She extends that perspective throughout her other projects at Enterprise, including public relations, media relations, content marketing and digital media campaigns.
“Public relations and communications is all about narrative. I’m driven to stay innovative in an industry that is evolving daily by developing and creating unique narratives for our clients that are memorable and newsworthy.”

Margarita Benyammine

Digital Media Manager
Margarita’s flair for the unique and her perspective on providing excellent services has made her a success in her chosen venture. As a web developer and content creator, she has worked on hundreds of projects and produced excellent finished products, as well as used her experience to further expand those products into well-known brands. Margarita has worked with clients such as Paramount Fine Foods, developing their social media strategy and maintaining reputation by handling client reviews, The Middle Eastern Bridal Show, providing social media ad buying and posting concepts plus on day reporting, and many more interesting digital projects. Margarita is passionate about the Middle Eastern community and loves to work with individuals within the culture, supporting their vision and helping them thrive.

Salima Jivraj

Corporate Strategy Director (Consultant)
Salima is a Food Marketer and halal industry expert with a passion for creative design and digital media. Aside from day-to-day operations as Client Services Director at Nourish Food Marketing, her responsibility is to help inject innovation and multicultural insights into the agency’s creative work. In 2011, Salima founded Halal Foodie, a media company focused on halal food in Canada, which eventually led to founding North America’s largest halal food festival in 2012. Before deciding to trail blaze into the emerging halal sector in North America, Salima held leadership roles within marketing departments of national grocery retailers and manufacturing companies. Aside from her own publications, Salima is a regular contributor with other media outlets including Canadian Grocer Magazine.

Hala Soliman

Marketing Manager
Hala holds a psychology degree from York University and a Special Event Management diploma from George Brown College. Her enthusiastic nature and creative spirit has lead her through many successful events, within Canada and internationally. She worked as a teacher in an international school in Egypt, where she coordinated many school events that inspired her to change career paths and focus on creating memorable events. Hala has been involved in a variety of different events includes weddings, international medical conferences, and charity campaigns, athletic events and many more.Her volunteer work has contributed to her strong personality and advanced knowledge of the event industry.Hala’s philosophy is to love what you are doing and it will be a success. She is an ambitious and hard-working professional committed to making a difference in people’s lives.

Rand Al Rubaye

Community Outreach & Volunteers Manager
Rand is our volunteers and community outreach manager, she is responsible for coordinating and mentoring volunteers and connecting people in the broader community. A graduate from the American University of Iraq – Sulaymaniah with a major in Business Administration and a minor in Management. Rand started a career in events management and co-founded Venti Special Events, a company that caters events to empower and strengthen youth professionals around the GTA. Aside from that, she has been working with youth volunteers in events and creating a fun and safe environment for them to network, communicate with their surroundings, and evolve professionally. As she started as a volunteer at the Newcomer Centre of Peel and then an employee working with youth community engagement, Rand realized that volunteerism helps individuals become better and more effective. Through her work in events and management, Rand learned the importance of community events on cultures and societies, how they can be great channels to advocate for positive changes in communities.

Ola Salah

Vendor Manager
Ola knows the importance of catering promotional messaging based on the audience’s needs. By day, Ola is an events officer at Mohawk College, planning and managing cultural events for over 4000 international students, and by night she is a co-founder of Venti, an event production company working creatively to reinvent networking events for young, middle eastern professionals. With her background in Public Relations and Corporate Communications, she is versed in strategic marketing and events management. Ola likes to show off her love for fashion and travel in a lifestyle blog called The Salah Sisters, generating a following of 18,000. She collaborated with major companies like Kiehl’s Canada, Dynamite, and Guerlain, to name a few. Her passion for creating meaningful connections was the driving force of her career, and Taste of Middle East is no exception to that drive.

Seevana Hawari

Vendor Manager
Seevana is an Account Manager for the Merchandise Vendors at Taste of The Middle East. She is currently completing her undergraduate in Fashion Communications at Ryerson University. She is also the founder of KUVRD – a Middle Eastern inspired wear brand focusing on bridging the gap between the east and west. Her passion for designing, culture, and eye for industry trends allowed her to realize the industry’s use of middle eastern prints, patterns, and symbols, without the direct link to its origin. Thus the idea of KUVRD was born. Seevana is super involved in the Middle Eastern community and is always looking for ways to get involved and give back.

Ahmad Issa

Media Relations Manager
Ali is our Branding Manager at Taste of the Middle East. With over 15 years of of experience in Graphic Design, Brand Marketing and Communications, Ali has developed an advanced skill-set in understanding clients and their needs for Business Branding Solutions. His contributions to both strategic and creative processes have created many distinctive brand identities and marketing strategies that forge strong emotional connections with audiences. Ali is highly motivated to further advance his expertise in the retail, hospitality, restaurant, entertainment, real estate, and professional services sectors in Toronto. Ali specializes in creating unique ideas to help develop brands, and will help you win the hearts and minds of your clients through differentiating your service and standing out from the competition, in order to achieve your business goals.

Ali Farhat and Dean Farhat

Leaders in Training
The Farhat Brothers, our team’s dynamic duo bring laughter and fun to the team. With their superior tech skills and ability to influence adults and kids with their ideas, Ali and Dean are the designers of the Taste of the Middle East’s snapchat geo filter. In the hope of having this outdoor festival be appealing to kids, the brothers are the masterminds behind the “Kids Corner” an interactive activity station for kids of all ages to colour, build, design and show off their creative talents. Stay tuned for contests, prizes and fun coming your way!

Ali Sulaiman

Creative and Branding Director
Ali is our Branding Manager at Taste of the Middle East. With over 15 years of of experience in Graphic Design, Brand Marketing and Communications, Ali has developed an advanced skill-set in understanding clients and their needs for Business Branding Solutions. His contributions to both strategic and creative processes have created many distinctive brand identities and marketing strategies that forge strong emotional connections with audiences. Ali is highly motivated to further advance his expertise in the retail, hospitality, restaurant, entertainment, real estate, and professional services sectors in Toronto. Ali specializes in creating unique ideas to help develop brands, and will help you win the hearts and minds of your clients through differentiating your service and standing out from the competition, in order to achieve your business goals.

Nick Merzetti

Creative Photography
Nick is the Creative Photography Manager for Taste of the Middle East. Nick Merzetti is an award-winning photographer specializing in food and fashion photography. Nick’s work has been featured in publications such as Monacle, Institute and Spacing magazines, as well as The Toronto Star and The Guardian UK. He is the recipient of the esteemed William J. Dowkes Award for outstanding portrait photography from the University of Toronto, and is a winner of the Nature in Focus Photography competition presented by David Suzuki. Nick is a highly regarded professional whose work focuses on movement, intention and emotion to capture unique moments that surprise and intrigue. His work has included collaborations with renowned clients including The Drake Hotel, TOM*, Miss Universe Canada, Big Smoke Burger, Arts and Crafts, Rogers Communication, Frank and Oak, Absolute, Chantecler, Woodlot, Borelia, Volos, Los Colibris, El Caballito, Notable, and many others.

Ali Al Lami

Video Production
Ali is our Video Production Manager at Taste of the Middle East. Interested in the film industry and photography, Ali has participated in producing some short films as an actor, camera man and has assisted in the direction of other short films. His most notable works have been “The Victims of Silence”, “4059” and the latest “2:30min”. He has worked on music videos such as “Wahyat Oyounak” for Lebanese celebrity artist Anwar El Amir and “Talobeh” for Sandy Rekany. In TV, Ali was responsible for the post-production for a weekly program presented by the Rogers tv channel in Toronto. In the theater, he contributed through the Iraqi Festival of Toronto, as an administrator, sound, and visual effects designer. Ali is the owner of L’ami Photo and a team member of B2B Production that specializes in weddings, event videography and photography. Ali is a well rounded team member who holds a civil engineering technologist diploma from George Brown College and currently works for Toro Aluminum as a project coordinator.

Ali Kheir Eddine

Video Production
A 1991 graduate of the Lebanese University, actor and director, Ali first made his debut as a free-lance photographer at Reuters during the Lebanese civil war from 1984 to 1990. On the year 1990, he produced his first documentary film (Al-Thaar) based on his true to life story about searching revenge for his father who got killed. Ali did his first TV film (Alfakh – the trap) in 1993 and this experience enabled him to develop his skills as a producer and a film maker. He joined Abu Dhabi TV in 1997 as Head of the Children’s Department, producing over five TV shows as well as earning a gold award for the show Hikayatouna from JCC film festival. Over the years, Ali has completed an impressive array of directing TV shows by developing his own atmospheric and bold visual style. In the year 2002, he established his own company “2Digital Advertising” a TV production company based in Dubai, UAE. During his work, Ali looks for positivity and humanity, aiming to make a change in his life and others, looking for the good, seeking positivity, and striving to make every day a joyful experience.

Nevein Gamal Gamaleldin

Event Support Volunteer
Nevein is the Finance Director for Taste of the Middle East. She comes with a background in Finance, and has worked with Citibank Canada, Bank of Montreal, Royal Bank of Canada as well as Staples Business Advantage. Her expertise through her career has been in the roles of financial advisor, customer client care, corporate trainer, assistant branch manager as well as sales and project management. On a personal level, Nevein has a passion for volunteering as well as being part of events that cater to the Middle Eastern community. She enjoys bringing awareness to the culture and diversity with the message of integration within the new homeland – Canada. Nevein’s upbeat personality brings optimistic vibes to the Taste of the Middle East.

Ahmad Zaatar

Event Support Volunteer
Ahmad is our Volunteer Manager for Taste of the Middle East and will be taking care of a little bit of everything. Ahmad Zaatar sits on the board of directors for Taste of the Middle East not-for-profit organization. He currently specializes in restaurant logistics. Ahmed, over the years, has contributed to the community by volunteering at many events such as Kids Talent Time and The New Years Party (NGO). He has also created and produced short Instagram videos. His passion for media, events, and people in general makes him a great asset to the team. He is a great example of the Canadian Middle Eastern identity we are promoting through our vision and mission.

Lisa Mathura-Matos

Event Support Volunteer
Lisa is an award winning educator employed by the York Region District School Board. With over 15 years of experience, she has dedicated her career to student achievement and excellence in English and History. Her professionalism and enthusiasm extends beyond the classroom as she understands that to cultivate leadership in her students, she too must lead by example. As a volunteer in her local community, she exemplifies her civic duty by being an active citizen. Through her charity work as a key organizer in talent shows, fundraising galas, and various causes in York Region, Lisa is a keen and active participant in social events that bring awareness to social justice and global affairs. Her involvement as Chief Editor for The Taste of the Middle East is just another manner in which she can celebrate the diversity and liveliness of Toronto. Lisa holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology from York University and a Bachelor of Education from The University of Toronto.

Rana Soliman

Event Support Volunteer
Rana is an Administrator & Volunteer Program Manager who recently graduated with a Special Event Management diploma from George Brown. She also holds a Police Foundation diploma from Durham College. She has worked as an International teacher in Egypt where she has assisted in planning school events. She is a dedicated and outgoing professional who strives to create unique events. Not only does she like to plan great event but she is an athletic individuals who enjoys to participate in variety of sports and her main sport is Field Hockey. She is fully committed to her team and career and will her 100% dedication to achieve success.

Dana Sabbagh

Event Support Volunteer
Dana is our project Event Coordinator whose tasks include the organization of administrative duties, vendor outreach, and grants the requests to the various stakeholders in this project. Currently a student at the University of Toronto, pursuing her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Toxicology and Global Health, her work outside of academia is very interpersonal. A true people person, Dana is no stranger to working on large teams. As a volunteer with organizations such as the Together Project, Dana has served as a cultural ambassador for two Syrian refugee families in Toronto. Her other volunteer work includes projects with the Centre of Immigrant and Community Services, which focuses on helping newcomer Arab students adjust to the Canadian system. Once a Lebanese immigrant herself, Dana seeks new and creative ways to give back to the community while maintaining her strong sense of empathy as an ally to new Canadians. Dana’s love for new challenges has made event planning her hobby, where she has had first hand experience, through her work as a Stage Manager with the Toronto District School Board.

Anas Saltaji

Managing Partner, Canadian Franchising Group
Anas Saltaji is the COO and Managing Partner of the Canadian Franchise Group (CFG), which houses reputable international brands for Canada, like Signarama, and Venture X. As Master franchisee, for these brands, Anas oversees and deploys all of the Canadian operations and market growth for each venture. Having close to a decade of experience in opening and launching large enterprises for multi-million dollar brands and firms, Anas knows what truly drives effective launches, efficient operations, and general store prosperity in the Canadian Marketplace. When it comes to his franchisees’ success, he believes “It’s how well you connect with the heart-beating people you’re trying to help and combining that, with a heightened understanding of the market their entering.” Outside of business, Anas holds a huge heart for philanthropy, and has supported initiatives and programs for Trillium Hospital, Ecosource, assisted local sports teams & schools, and even personally sponsored less-fortunate families both locally and abroad. In addition to The Taste of the Middle East, Anas also currently sits on the board for Paint The Town Red Canada Day Celebration, in Mississauga. He believes that giving back is an important practice for all. Anas holds a BA in Business, with a specialization in Finance, from York University. He also holds an MBA with a specialization in Innovative Leadership from the University of Fredericton.

Joanna Sable

Food Industry Consultant, Chef, Social Media Promoter
As the food industry evolves so does every aspect of what Joanna can do. Consulting is very personal and each individual space has different demands. Joanna is an expert in revamping decor, deciding where to add locations, maximizing revenue in existing spaces, and creating a big buzz in the social media world. Joanna is a connector and problem solver and she does it quickly, affordably and efficiently. Give Joanna a shout so she can do some truly exciting things to help you grow.

Lina Duque

Lina Duque, MBA, Social Media Strategist

Lina Duque holds an MBA from Ivey Business School. She is a social media strategist, university lecturer and international speaker and moderator. Her analysis has appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Forbes and the Globe and Mail. She is a sought-after advisor to C-suite executives, business leaders and academics on developing thought leadership through creating a strong and strategic digital presence. Lina is a frequent speaker on social media, personal branding and women’s empowerment. Her speaking portfolio includes Harvard University, McGill University, University of Toronto, York University, Lean In Canada, Ellevate Network and the World Communication Forum Davos (Geneva and Istanbul).

Volunteer Portfolio:
Mentor with The OpEd Project, helping bring a diversity of voices into the media. Advisor with the DMZ at Ryerson University, providing insights to entrepreneurs on social media strategy. Member of the planning committee of 2014 ROM PROM, an annual fundraising gala for the ROM attended by over 1000 people. Chair of the Arabic Arts Steering Committee of the Luminato Festival in 2010. Website LinaDuqueConsulting.com or Twitter @LinaDuqueMBA .

Lara Zahabi-Bekdash

Physician, Bioethicist, Global Health Scholar

Lara is a physician, bioethicist, global health scholar, and health promoter, specialized in community engagement, and refugee health issues. In addition to the MD degree from the American University of Beirut, she holds a PhD and MHSc from the University of Toronto, and has extensive experience with public health and non-governmental organizations. Additionally, she is a certified in Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Response.
Lara also held many leadership positions in the Arab community, including:
-Co-founder and Co-Organizer of Supper with Syria
– Advisory Board Member of the Canadian Arabic Orchestra
– Steering committee and founding member of the Canadian Arab Institute
– Vice President, Member of the Executive Board of Directors of the Arab Peace Corps
– Advisory Board Member of Tastakel

Mark Strong

Radio personality and In-arena host for the Raptors
In his early career path, Mark joined the cornerstone of the urban talent pool in Toronto, Fresh Arts., an organization that helped build the foundation of such talent like Kardinal Offishall, Saukrates, July Black and video director Little X. His writing skills and connection with those around him also helped him branch out into acting, writing and producing several neighborhood theater plays, which strengthened his grounding in communities across the GTA. By 2001, Strong moved to commercial radio and in a matter of months, he advanced to the position of lead on-air personality and producer of the morning show, The Morning Rush on Flow935; a position he currently holds. Other notables on the entertainment front have been his demand for crowd/audience warm ups, landing him warm ups for Deal or No Deal for host Howie Mandel, Are You Smarter Than a Canadian 5th Grader for host Colin Mochrie and for both the 2008 and 2009 warm ups for YTV’s The Next Star Finale. Currently, Strong is reaching audiences at greater heights with his high profile hosting and voice over positions. For the last 6 years he has been the live voice of The Juno Awards in Edmonton, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Vancouver and Newfoundland (2004-2010). In addition to national award show live voicing, he has also voiced Canada’s Walk of Fame (2007/2009/2010). His natural transition to television was inevitable and has landed him the position of permanent host of NBAXL. This national NBA basketball/magazine show broadcasts across Canada and exposes Strong’s energy from coast to coast by interviewing players through a basketball culture perspective. His latest progression in the field has found him in the driver’s seat at the Toronto Argonauts and Toronto Raptors home games as in-stadium host and hype man, a place where the people and him share the same energy.

Moe Rai

Film Maker and Entrepreneur
Moe Rai is a filmmaker and business entrepreneur with a passion to empower individuals to create positive change in their communities. Moe holds an Honours Bachelor Degree in Computer Science and Mathematics from the University of Toronto along with an Honours diploma from the Toronto Film School. With more than a decade of experience in the film industry, Rai has had the privilege of working on projects with numerous Canadian and International talents and organizations such as the Canadian Film Centre, Shaftesbury Films, Temple Street Productions, SYFY Channel and Lions Gate, to name a few. Moe is currently working with Blue Ice Pictures, one of the industry’s key players. Moe is a big believer in indie filmmaking, where he worked on films that have been critically acclaimed in international film festivals such as Toronto Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, Canadian Film Festival and Sundance. A strong believer of knowledge transfer, Moe grew his second passion in training individuals and developing courses that tackles leadership and business skills with several local, international and non-for-profit organizations such as The United Nation, Junior Chamber International, Jusoor and Directors Guild of Canada. His dream is to develop projects and business initiatives that shed a positive light on communities, tackles the struggles that youth and minorities encounter while opening up conversation and starting initiatives to empower societies.

Raja G. Khouri

Raja Kouri Conversations
Raja is a seasoned professional skilled in strategic development, capacity building, public relations, communications and community engagement. Known for his energy, discipline and vision, he is a champion of diversity and inclusion, with a proven track record in human rights and cultural bridge-building. Raja is a tireless promoter of active citizenship, civic engagement, dialogue and understanding. He has founded organizations and built alliances to address issues of social justice; led organizations towards higher levels of achievement and competency; and worked with partners to advance organizational effectiveness and strategic capacity. Raja is founding president of the Canadian Arab Institute, a policy think-and-do-tank, is Canada Committee member of Human Rights Watch, and board member at Get Lit. He served as a commissioner with the Ontario Human Rights Commission from 2006 to 2016, and is co-founder and former co-chair of the Canadian Arab/Jewish Leadership Dialogue Group. Until 2013 Raja was principal at The Knowledge Centre, established in 1995 and specializing in organizational development and capacity building in the nonprofit sector. Raja formerly served on several government and civil society bodies, such as Ontario’s Hate Crimes Community Working Group, the Minister of Education’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy Roundtable, Pride Toronto Community Advisory Panel, and as president of the Canadian Arab Federation in the period following the events of 9/11. Raja’s earlier career included a senior management position at CIBC (human resources) and management consulting tenures in Europe and the Middle East. He has designed and chaired conferences, given and moderated lectures, given numerous media interviews, and published commentaries in journals and major Canadian dailies. He’s the author of Arabs in Canada: Post 9/11. Raja recently launched Raja Khouri Conversations. www.rajakhouri.com

Ramy Botros

Show Host and Community Leader
Ramy is a professional sales and marketing director with global experience in the field of advertising, marketing, media, and digital media. Ramy is the owner of Profmax which is a marketing company that sells digital marketing solutions, SEO with experience in Google Adwords and Analytics. He has successfully led the satellite channel ONTV a subsidiary of Orascom Holding, to unprecedented revenue increase. Ramy founded Al Masry Al Youm in 2004 and succeeded to lead the paper to be the most profitable paper among the dailies in 2.5 years. Rami has run a budget with many millions of dollars to be allocated effectively in marketing and promotional activities. He developed and launched the most viewed program in the Middle East “EL Bernameg” starring the celebrity Bassem Youssef and “Baladna Bel Masry”. Ramy’s extensive experience extends into planning, organizing and implementing promotional events with sponsoring activities. Ramy has been a respected guest speaker for talk shows with dual nationalities, Canadian and Egyptian. He is also the founder of Oxygen Talk Show, an internet based talk show with an aim to connect with Middle Eastern Canadians and to transfer inspiring stories to our hearts. He has even interviewed the 7th President of York U, Dr. Mamdouh Shoukri in one of his episodes. Ramy’s slogan is Yes we can! Middle Easterners are awesome! www.oxygentalkshow.com

Rita Houkayem

Policy Analyst

Rita is currently a policy analyst at innovation, science and economic development for the government of Canada. Rita recently obtained a Masters of International Affairs, specializing in International Development Policy. Bringing a young perspective into our team, will benefit this organization. Millennials represent the largest generation ever, yet few of them serve on the boards of companies.
Volunteer Portfolio:
-United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – Consultant
-United Nations DPI-NGO – Youth Representative
-Youth Assisting Youth Program – Mentor
-Ashoka – Consultant
-The Opeduca Project – Advisor
-Assistance to the Integration of Demobilized Child Soldiers (AIDC) – Advisor
-SOS Children’s Villages Canada -Fundraiser
-Operation Smile – Fundraiser
-Norman Paterson School of International Affairs Students’ Association – Co-President
-Cité internationale universitaire de Paris – Representative of Bureau des résidents (BDR)
-WLCU Youth of Canada (WLCUY Canada Chapter) – President and Founder

Rania Younes

Director of Operations – Canadian Arab Institute
Rania Younes has a Bachelor of Arts, specializing in journalism, mass communication, PR & advertising. She has 20 years of progressive marketing experience, which has taken her to positions as Senior Strategic Planner at Ogilvy & Mather, Project Manager at Brand Momentum. In the last 7 years, social justice and economic opportunity became a focus for Rania after being involved with various NGOs and her role as programs director at the Canadian-Arab Institute. Rania is the President of the Arab Community Centre of Toronto. She is the co founder of a grassroots initiative WelcomeHomeTO, that works closely with local community groups to articulate and bring attention to their settlement challenges. She co-founded a professional networking organization with a mission to empower newcomers through professional development, civic action, mentorship and networking opportunities. She is a mother of three & is equally as involved in their education as much as she is committed to her career. Volunteer:
-Arab Community Centre of Toronto – Board member & current President
-WelcomeHomeTO- co-founder and strategy director
-Professional Canadian Arab Network- co-founder and communications director
-Canadian Arab Orchestra – Advisor
-Ryerson University: Community and social work researcher and partnership lead
-Budz- co-founder and animator for Muslim girls activity group
-Girl Guides- group support assistant
-Jusoor-5th Annual Global Conference & Gala Director

Stephen Murdoch

Vice President, Public Relations, Enterprise Canada
Specializing in all facets of public relations, Stephen plays a leading role in developing and executing communications strategies to help his clients achieve success. Drawing from his extensive experience working with organizations from across the globe, Stephen leads the PR firm, Enterprise Canada’s public relations practice, and helps clients build their reputations. “Today’s earned media landscape is changing. A successful public relations campaign should be centred around storytelling. With the emergence of social and digital mediums, along with traditional media, there has never been a more important time to share the right narrative. I am passionate about what I do. I want to inspire others to share my love for creativity, well-written content and positioning of a person’s or organization’s story.” www.enterprisecanada.com/stephen-murdoch/

Wafaa Al Zaghal

Founder of The Canadian Arabic Orchestra
The Canadian Arabic Orchestra is a professional not for profit organization dedicated to connecting audiences with classical Arabic music while celebrating the freedom and diversity of Canada’s cultural landscape. The repertoire covers all parts of the Arab world and spans a time period that goes back to early Andalusia – sometimes with a western classical and jazz twist. We help Canadians get in touch with the cultural roots of Arabic music. Wafa Al Zaghal developed a strong background in Arabic music since he was quite young. Influenced by his father who was very fond of Arabic classical music, Wafa started his first Qanun lessons at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music. He later became a music instructor there, training and leading many Arabic music ensembles in Palestine. He has performed with many famous Arab musicians such as: Marwan Abado, Anouar Ibrahim, Simon Shaheen, Ahmad Al Khatib, Sharbel Rohana and Nizar Rohana. www.canadianarabicorchestra.ca

Aseel El-Baba

Public Relations Manager
Aseel is our Public Relations Manager focusing on the ethnic and community outreach.
Aseel El-Baba is an empowered woman fueled by passion to inspire, to motivate, and create an impact in the world. She holds various degrees and certifications in the Financial Planning Industry. She currently manages a portfolio of clients where she helps them with their investments and financial needs. Aseel has her own empowerment podcast called Get Real With Aseel,found on Itunes, Podbean and Youtube. Through her podcast, she publishes weekly episodes where she shares various tips and hacks for self improvement. Aseel is also a public speaker. She has won various competitions and participates in platforms where she shares her life lessons. Aseel is a PCAN board member, an organization that aims to increase community engagements and collaboration in the Canadian Arab Community. Her desire to challenge the status quo and her commitment to serve keeps her busy and active. She is an avid reader, traveler, explorer, challenger and changer.

Yusuf Yenilmez

CEO Zgemi Group of Companies
Yusuf Yenilmez is the founder & CEO of the Zgemi Group of Companies, a leader in quality constructions. He has more than 20 years of work experience in the construction industry and is the technical and architectural genius behind the Company’s outstanding reputation for quality and innovation. His team has pioneered developments in Canada’s Construction industry that bring it at par with international standards. Zgemi has grown to over 400 employees from all over Canada. As the CEO of Zgemi Group of Companies, Yusuf understands how economic growth is linked to the social and environmental well-being of society. He is always striving to make a positive contribution to society while engaging his employees. Yusuf is a committed philanthropist. Yusuf is also the owner of multiple companies including the famous Pasha Turkish Restaurant. www.zgemi.com

Taste of the Middle East

18 Wynford Drive, Suite 214
Toronto, Ontario
M3C3S2
Office: 416-238-5549
Mobile: 416-710-8710

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