The smell of spices and sound of the double-headed ‘dholak’ drum filled the air as Phnom Penh’s small but vibrant Pakistani community gathered at Friends Future Factory (F3).’
The Pakistanis present brought their diverse culture in food, clothing, shoes and accessories, as well as henna tattoos, to share with captivated Cambodians.
“As our space is available to all communities, and it’s always good to see the diversity of all the communities living in Cambodia reflected in the many events we host.
“This was new to me. I had never seen this kind of event before. I think they should promote the Pakistani community more, so people will be aware that there are many Pakistanis living in Cambodia.
“Friends Future Factory fully supports the international community living in the Kingdom as much as the Cambodian community. It is an eco-friendly space which give communities the chance to be a part of something good for the future they are heading to as one big community in Cambodia,” said Hong Panha, the Cambodian coordinator at F3.
Panha said such events gave Cambodians the opportunity to meet people from different countries living in the country to experience and gain understanding of their culture, art and food.
The event at Friends Future Factory was organised by Princella Anum Gill, a founder of Princella Flavors of Saffron restaurant.
“Having organised this event, one thing that I was able to see among everyone at the event was ‘hope’, in the archaic meaning of a ‘feeling of trust’, which was shown greatly by everyone involved while setting up this event.
“I am looking forward to organising and reaching out to other small communities living in Cambodia so they can come together and help each other out by building trust and becoming part of something good for the society we are living in,” she said.
Vast and rich in taste
Around a hundred people including Pakistanis, locals and expats attended the “Pakistani Cultural Night” event in celebration of Pakistan’s 75th Independence Day last month.
A number of Pakistani restaurants including Princella Flavours of Saffron, represented their most popular and tastiest Pakistani dishes, with a huge range available as Pakistani food is so vast and rich in options and tastes.
“I wanted to bring our community together since we never had a chance before to get to know each other and find out how many other Pakistanis are living and working in Cambodia.
“I organised this event to help our community members who are running small businesses and to celebrate our culture in Cambodia. I reached out to the embassy of Pakistan and asked them to collaborate by asking some of the Pakistanis businesses here in Phnom Penh.
“On many other Pakistani special occasions, we ... in Cambodia had been celebrating without a community, so this cultural event is for the unity of our community,” Gill told The Post.
The “Pakistani Cultural Night” was held in collaboration with the Pakistan Embassy in Phnom Penh.
Gill said she chose to do their first community event at F3 because they helped communities while hosting other cultural and recreational activities.
A single mother of two sold clothes from Pakistan, while vendors were selling beautiful tribal jewellery, traditional shoes and cosmetic brands, and there was also “Mehandi” henna art, Facepainting, live music and beauty services.
There was the sound of the ‘dholak’ double-headed drum used in Pakistan and all across the subcontinent in countless folk genres, devotional traditions, and family or community functions and celebrations.
“As the event started all the vendors were ready and excited about it. Everyone was dressed up in traditional clothes in the green and white Pakistani colours.
“The aroma of our delicious Pakistani food was mouthwatering, while unique handicrafts from Pakistan were on display and available to buy, and even the kids playing around really made everyone from the community feel at home,” Gill said.
‘Important to connect’
While 80 per cent of attendees were Pakistani, Gill, whose family who moved to Cambodia in 2017, said everyone was happy to meet the Pakistani nationals living and working in different parts of Cambodia, who the embassy says number around 300.
Meeting new people from the same community was also an exciting moment for all the Pakistani nationals present, who appreciated and thanked Gill for thinking about them and organising the event.
By doing so they were able to find out more about each other, particularly those running small businesses and representing their country and culture in Cambodia.
“The embassy of Pakistan was happy to be a part of this event, and our ambassador acknowledged and appreciated how important these kinds of events are for communities to build trust, connect and be able to provide support for each other.
“The deputy head of the embassy also showed his appreciation and great interest in reaching out to the vendors and providing decorations for the event,” Gill said.
She said that while not as present as the ex-pats, the number of Cambodians who attended the event thoroughly enjoyed it, and were happy to learn about Pakistani culture.
They tried the food from the many vendors present and took pictures with the things that stood out to them from the different stalls.
Panha told The Post that F3 is an inclusive space right in the heart of Phnom Penh that supports young Cambodians to share their unlimited creativity and make their dreams a reality.
“We support them to create and share their art, music, and dance, and also to develop their business ideas in our incubation project. Our space can also be used by community groups for all kinds events. So I think this kind of event is wonderful.
“Please come and visit us at F3, monitor our Facebook page and social media for upcoming events or just come in and experience our space,” he said.