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Cultural Ambassadors

Haaz Sleiman

Acclaimed actor Haaz Sleiman is the latest cultural ambassador to join forces with the Levantine Cultural Center. Haaz recently took his talent "across the pond" to star as "Omar Habash" in The Promise, a ground-breaking Channel 4 2011 mini-series that premiered in the UK, and just received a coveted BAFTA nomination for its gritty depiction of the founding of Israel through the eyes of a British soldier in 1947 and his granddaughter retracing his steps nearly 60 years later. The LCC will be screening The Promise, fall-winter 2012.

Mozhan Marnó

Mozhan Marnó is a Los Angeles-based film, theater, and television actress. She is best known for playing the title role in the film, "The Stoning of Soraya M." which also stars Jim Caviezel and Shohreh Aghdashloo. The LA Times called her performance "powerful," while Variety wrote that she was "the film's emotional center."
Marnó can also be seen in Overture Films spy thriller Traitor alongside Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce. Other feature film credits include Charlie Wilson's War with Tom Hanks and the independent feature August starring Josh Harnett.

On the small screen she's made recurring and guest appearances on popular television shows such as "The Mentalist", "Hung", "Bones", "Medium," "Shark", "" and "The Unit", among others. Next up, she will be appearing on "The Paul Reiser Show."

Marnó received rave reviews for the one woman production of "Nine Parts of Desire" where she portrayed nine different Middle Eastern women in a 90 minute one-act play which ran at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and locally at the Geffen Playhouse.

She attended boarding school at the prestigious Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts. Soon after she earned a BA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and her MFA at the Yale School of Drama. Additionally Marnó received training at the Guthrie Experience in Minnesota and at the Public Theatre's Shakespeare Lab. Fluent in German, French and Farsi, Marnó has lived in France, Germany, Sweden and Argentina.

Nazanin Boniadi

Nazanin BoniadiNazanin BoniadiBritish-Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi (Master of Ceremonies) has worked on feature films such as Charlie Wilson's War, Iron Man, and Paul Haggis's new feature film, The Next Three Days, starring Russell Crowe.

On the small screen she first became widely known for portraying Nurse Leyla Mir on ABC's Emmy Award®-winning, General Hospital, for which she received an NAACP Image Award Nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series.

She is credited as being the first actor in a contract role to portray a Middle Eastern character in U.S. daytime history.

She has recurred and Guest Starred on several primetime shows including 24 on FOX, ABC's The Deep End, The Game on the CW, and TNT's new medical drama, Hawthorne.

As a devoted human rights activist and an Official Spokesperson for Amnesty International USA, she has campaigned for the rights of people across the world, particularly in her homeland of Iran.

Sussan Deyhim

Sussan DeyhimSussan DeyhimInternational vocalist Sussan Deyhim is a natural cultural ambassador, floating between worlds and realms in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East, performing in diverse genres including opera, jazz, experimental and Iranian traditional. Born in Teheran to an old aristocratic family and the youngest of 11 children, Sussan Deyhim's upbringing during the rule of the Shah of Iran was ultra-progressive. Her father was an economist, scientist and violinist; her house was filled with every conceivable style of music, old and new. Her life was consumed with ballet and her teacher was a choreographer who combined works by Stockhausen and Bartók with traditional and folk Persian music. Summers were spent at a special dance and arts camp at the Caspian Sea, and at the Shiraz Festival, the largest avant-garde gathering in the country, which featured the likes of Robert Wilson, John Cage and the Living Theater.

By the time she met Maurice Bejart and was offered a scholarship to attend his School of Performing Arts in Brussels, Deyhim had been exposed to an amazing variety of music: from India, Egypt, Andalusia, and every part of her own country-the African-influenced styles and trance ceremonies of the south, Saudi Arabian, Kurdish, Luristani, Baluchistani, Afghani and the immigrant tribes of the central regions.

Deyhim studied and performed with Bejart's Ballet of the Twentieth Century and had been dancing with the company for almost two years when she moved to New York and plunged into dance classes, only to realize that ballet was no longer her calling. Her opportunity arrived when she met and began working with Richard Horowitz, a musician, composer and producer schooled in free jazz, steeped in the music of Morocco and many other forms of what would become known as "world music." Their collaboration would produce Majou" for Sony Classical, a unique synthesis that married the strains of traditional Middle Eastern music with cutting edge technology and a progressive sensibility.

Her appearances have ranged from productions such as John Claude van Italie's Tibetan Book of the Dead at La Mama in New York to playing Euridice at La Scala in Milan, to performing with Bill Laswell and Jah Wobble to recording and performing as a soloist with Bobby McFerrin's vocal ensemble. Deyhim has performed the music for several Shirin Neshat films and continues to travel the world as a highly-sought after vocal artist. Visit her site.

Mohja Kahf

Mohja Kahf: (photo by Weyam Ghadbian, courtesy of the Univ. of Arkansas)Mohja Kahf: (photo by Weyam Ghadbian, courtesy of the Univ. of Arkansas)After reading at Levantine Cultural Center on July 14, 2010, Mohja Kahf—a Muslim feminist par excellence—came on board as our newest cultural ambassador. She is a breath of fresh air when it comes to showing how the "clash of civilizations" argument is balderdash, and her work, whether poetry, fiction or essay, speaks volumes.

Born in Damascus, Syria, Mohja Kahf is an associate professor of comparative literature at the University of Arkansas. She has published three books: a novel, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, a volume of poetry, E-mails from Scheherazad, and Western Representations of the Muslim Woman. Her poems have been projected on the facade of the New York Public Library, and published in more conventional venues such as Mizna, Banipal, Paris Review, Tiferet: A Journal of Literature and Spirituality, and Atlanta Review, as well as the anthology Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond from W.W. Norton, and Hayan Charara's Inclined to Speak. Some of Kahf's short fiction was online at MuslimWakeUp.com's "Sex and the Ummah" column. An Arkansas resident for the last fourteen years, Kahf has lived in the Arab world and returns there regularly with her husband and three children. Kahf's next poetry manuscript is about Hajar, Sarah, and Abraham, and she is working on a book of essays on interfaith and faith issues, called Love, Anyway: Letters from Your Muslim Aunty. In 2010 she won a Pushcart Prize for an essay about her son. Read a New York Times profile about Mohja.

Raya Meddine

Raya MeddineRaya MeddineRaya Meddine, aka Rana Alamuddin, is a Lebanese-American actress, writer and TV host who works between Los Angeles, Paris and the Middle East.

Among her latest projects, a guest-starring role on FOX's new TV show Touch starring Kiefer Sutherland, a part in the film Sex and the City 2, a series regular role on the TV drama The Young and the Restless as well as guest starring roles on CSI: Miami and Rizzoli & Isles.

She's hosted LBC's hit pan-Arab TV show Mission Fashion and appeared in Lebanon's first box-office success Bosta. She's also played the female lead in Nidal Achkar's critically-acclaimed play To Hell with Meryl Streep in both Beirut and Paris.

Raya has lived in eight different countries and is fluent in five languages.  She is also an author and a performance artist.

Raya Meddine has been a cultural ambassador for the Levantine Cultural Center since 2009, helping bridge gaps between the US and the Middle East through the arts and entertainment industry. Her alter ego is Burkawoman. You can follow her on Twitter @burkawoman1 or you can check out her Burkawoman blog—"for every woman who wants to shed her burka and reveal the super hero within."  

Necar Zadegan

Necar ZadeganNecar ZadeganNecar Zadegan has been active with Levantine Cultural Center since 2007, most recently performing poetry in

Aron Kader


Comedian/writer Aron KaderComedian/writer Aron KaderAron Kader "The problem in the Middle East," says Aron Kader, "is that the Jews and the Arabs both think they're God's chosen people. They're in the desert! Maybe the people in Hawaii or Samoa are the chosen people—ever think of that?" Aron Kader would like to thank his Palestinian father and Mormon mother for giving him so many reasons to be a comedian. Raised in the Washington D.C. area Aron (or Haroun) moved away to Hollywood at nineteen years old to pursue comedy and acting. Aron spent a year in the legendary sketch theatre "The Groundlings" Sunday company, and now performs regularly in Hollywood at his home club, The Comedy Store. He has been featured in the The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek magazine, and many other national publications. He was a stand out at the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, and received stellar reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year. Lately he has been on the "Axis of Evil" comedy tour, with Ahmed Ahmed and Maz Jobrani. Visit Aron's site.

Maz Jobrani

Maz JobraniMaz JobraniMaz Jobrani has been touring the world with his latest show, the "Brown & Friendly Comedy Tour." He stars in the upcoming series "Funny in Farsi" based on the book by Firouzeh Dumas, and was a regular cast member on the ABC comedy show "The Knights of Prosperity." In 2005 Maz was a regular on the Fox sitcom "Life on a Stick." He also played Secret Service Agent "Mo" in "The Interpreter," the Sydney Pollack film starring Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman.

Maz is best known for his role as "Moly" in Ice Cube's "Friday After Next." He has also guest starred as "The Sikh" in "Curb Your Enthusiasm" along with several other guest stars on "Law and Order,""The West Wing,""NYPD Blue,""24,""Without a Trace,""Malcolm in the Middle," and many other shows. Maz played Glenn, Jennifer Garner's colleague, in last year's film "13 Going on 30."

Maz toured with Ahmed Ahmed and Aron Kader in "The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour" and has appeared in the Levantine series, Sultans of Satire: Middle East Comic Relief. Maz's sketch comedy work at the ACME Theater in Los Angeles has been called "devilishly funny" and "extraordinary" by the LA Weekly. Maz has been a moderator most recently with Levantine Cultural Center and the Iranian American Bar Association's program at the Mark Taper, Dismantling the Axis of Evil: Reforming Middle Eastern Representations in Hollywood. Visit Maz's site.

Ahmed Ahmed

Ahmed AhmedAhmed AhmedAhmed Ahmed is an Egyptian American comic whose penetrating insight into Arabs and the USA will leave you in stitches. He has been a cultural ambassador to the Levantine Cultural Center since 2003 when he and Aron Kader entertained audience members at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre during "From Al-Andalus to Jerusalem." Winner of the Richard Pryor Award for Ethic Comedy, Ahmed has performed in the "Axis of Evil" Comedy Tour and at The Comedy Store. He has also appeared at world-famous comedy venues such as the Laugh Factory and The Improv, and he regularly tours the Middle East, doing stand-up comedy in cities like Beirut, Cairo, Dubai and even Riyadh. He has shared the stage with Vince Vaughn, Maz Jobrani and many others. Richard Pryor said of Ahmed, "he makes people confront their own racism and small minds—I see genius in this man."

Ahmed was born in Helwan, Egypt on June 27th, 1970. His parents immigrated to the U.S. when he was one month old and he grew up in Riverside, CA. He moved to Hollywood when he was 19 to pursue a career as an actor and stand-up comedian. He attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and studied with acting coaches Cliff Osmond, Ivana Chubbuck and Sandy Marshall.

He can be seen in such films and television shows as Iron Man, You Don't Mess With the Zohan, Swingers, Tracey Takes On, Roseanne, JAG, Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn on Comedy Central, MTV's PUNK'D, and on the Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD bonus features performing stand-up comedy. He has also appeared on CNN, The View, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and NPR, and was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal in December of 2001. Recently, he can be seen in the film City of Life, the first feature film to be shot entirely in Dubai, U.A.E., which will be premiering at the Dubai International Film Festival this year.

Currently he is bringing American stand-up comedy to Yemen for the first tiime ever, and his directorial debut, the documentary Just Like Us, comes out in 2010. Visit his website.