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27/04/2017 - 13:45hs

Arab Chamber unveils new headquarters

The organization opened its new headquarters in an event Wednesday evening. Guests and authorities were presented to the two floors that were designed by the architect and city planner Ruy Ohtake.

São Paulo – The Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce unveiled Wednesday (26) evening its new headquarters, at number 287 of Paulista Avenue, in the city of São Paulo. The organization now occupies two floors of a modern building, almost in front of its former address, and the venue was presented to guests in a ceremony attended by authorities and with a presentation by circus company Universo Casuo.

Rodrigo Rodrigues/Arab Chamber

Hannun spoke in the new auditorium of the Chamber

The Arab Chamber’s president, Rubens Hannun, presented the new headquarters to the guests and underscored that it is the result of the work done by each and every board of directors that the organization has ever had. “This construction was only possible because it was inspired and rooted in inexplicable attitudes, with dedication and detachment, but explainable by the heart, by the love for the Arab Chamber and for the work,” he said, reminding that this work has brought Brazil and the Arab countries closer.

The venue’s opening took place in the year that the Arab Chamber celebrates 65 years. President Hannun said that the mission and values that have fueled the work of the organization through all these years will provide the courage and audacity needed for the new times. He highlighted the close ties that were established between Brazil and the Arab world in the last few decades. “The distance, the language, the access, gradually ceased to be significant barriers,” he said.

Hannun pointed out that the new headquarters were acquired and built during the term of former president Marcelo Sallum and that this was only possible with the support of the organization’s Council. The president of the Arab Chamber’s Management Council, Walid Yazigi, who attended the inauguration, told a little bit of the organization’s history and greeted all the board of directors. “It’s a dynamic organization and these headquarters shows how modern, energetic and active it is,” said Yazigi.

Rodrigo Rodrigues/Arab Chamber

The president of the Arab Chamber alongside the authorities

In an interview to ANBA during the inauguration, Sallum said that the idea for new headquarters was studied thoroughly by the Arab Chamber before a decision was made. According to him, the organization needed a more adequate space to host events and welcome authorities, for instance. “For some years we had this goal of having new headquarters to match the standards of the Arab Chamber and the countries that the Chamber represents,” he said. According to him, the new headquarters keep up with the organization’s growth.

The dean of the Council of Arab Ambassadors in Brazil and ambassador of Palestine, Ibrahim Alzeben, was also at the opening. “This is the culmination of 65 years of work, of dedication from different boards of directors, and all I can do is to congratulate and give encouragement to keep advancing, progressing,” he said to ANBA. Alzeben described the move as a dream that was built by the organization’s entire staff. “One can tell the care that has been given to every single detail,” he said.

Tunisia’s foreign minister Khemaies Jhinaoui, who’s on a trip to Brazil, attended the opening. In an address, he underscored the role that the Arab Chamber’s plays in relations between Brazil and the Arab world. “I am certain that the Arab Chamber will always be the primary bridge for Brazilian-Arab relations,” he asserted. The head of office of the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in São Paulo, Débora Barenboim-Salej, also addressed the attendees. She said the Arab Chamber is an example among its peers for the work it does to bridge the gap between Arab countries and Brazil.

New home

The opening solemnity took place on the 11th floor. There’s a central auditorium surrounded by an events hall, meeting rooms, an Arab handicraft gallery, a library, a praying room, the reception, and other areas. Architect-in-charge Ruy Ohtake, who was at the event, told ANBA of how he conceived the space. “It all revolves around this auditorium,” he relates. He stresses that the hallways are unnoticeable. People move about around the round-shaped auditorium to get to where they want to go. “On the sides are items representing Arab culture,” he says.

Rodrigo Rodrigues/Arab Chamber

Ohtake: the venue merges Arab and Brazilian cultures

The Arab Chamber’s office space will be located on the 10th floor. Ohtake also relied on the concept of a central space, but here it is square-shaped with rounded edges. It comprises meeting rooms and a few areas, such as the Brazil-Arab News Agency (ANBA), flanked with the organization’s remaining work teams, including the Marketing and Market Intelligence Department.

Ohtake employed colors, which are a mainstay of his work. In the events room, orange, green and red come together harmonically. “It isn’t a formal setting, it’s a place where the Arab and Brazilian cultures meet,” the architect said. He also said he was very proud of his having been invited to design the headquarters in a building that’s also of his own design. “The affection I have towards the Arab community is the affection that it has towards people,” he stated.

The project’s engineer Claudia Yazigi Haddad relays that the architect’s ideas were followed to the hilt. “Nothing is run-of-the-mill here, everything is curvy. It’s different,” she told ANBA regarding the project while the solemnity unfolded on the 11th floor. She pointed out the harmonic colors that were used and the change in profile compared with the old headquarters. “The Chamber used to have a much more traditional profile which it switched for something much bolder and supermodern,” the engineer said.

Rodrigo Rodrigues/Arab Chamber

Universo Casuo performed

The library of the new headquarters is named after Jamil Saliba, a former Arab Chamber president who is now deceased. His widow, Vera Saliba, unveiled the library opening plaque alongside Walid Yazigi. The 11th floor also comprises special rooms, including one named Arab League. The Muslim praying space faces Mecca, complete with special lighting and a preparation room.

Attendees of the opening enjoyed a performance from circus troupe Universo Casuo that lasted some 40 minutes. Clowns played with the crowd, who witnessed a show talent of color, with light and sound effects, dancing, performance, and acrobatics. The pocket show recreated a magical parallel universe.

Several authorities were present, including ambassadors from Arab countries stationed in Brazil.

*Translated by Sérgio Kakitani & Gabriel Pomerancblum

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