Our Team


Hazami Sayed: Executive Director/Founder

Hazami Sayed
Hazami Sayed

Hazami, an Arab-American, grew up in the Arab region and came to the U.S. to pursue higher education. She began Al-Bustan with the launch of a language and cultural day camp in July 2002, which grew out of a desire to develop a creative and supportive environment where her young boys could learn the Arabic language and be immersed in the richness of Arab arts and culture while navigating their place in American society. Hazami has worked in the fields of architecture and urban development in Philadelphia and New York City. Her areas of research were community development and affordable urban housing in which she was a consultant and taught a seminar at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a photographer and has exhibited her work in Philadelphia. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Stanford University and Master of Architecture from Columbia University. Hazami is a recipient of the Leeway Foundation’s 2012 Transformation Award given to Philadelphia-area women artists committed to art-making for social change. She is the mother of two boys, ages 22 and 18 years.

Hafez Kotain: Percussion Director

Hafez Kotain

Hafez is a master percussionist fluent in both Arab and Latin rhythms. Born in Venezuela of Syrian heritage, he grew up in Syria until the age of 16 years. He began playing the doumbek at the age of seven years, made his first stage performance at nine years, and went on to study with master Syrian percussionist Hady Jazan, winning the national percussion competitions in Syria for five consecutive years. In Venezuela he studied percussion at the TMV Institute for Music in Valencia, where he also taught a variety of percussion styles blending Arab and Latino music to youth. He works with Al-Bustan throughout the year, teaching music at summer camp, weekly percussion classes at several Philadelphia schools, and a weekly percussion ensemble class at University of Pennsylvania. Hafez is a recipient of the prestigious 2013 Pew Fellowship in the Arts, which is awarded each year to 12 Philadelphia artists who are of exemplary talent.

Kinan Abou-afach: Musician/Composer/Arranger

Kinan Abou-afach

Kinan, a Syrian-born cellist and composer, is a recipient of the 2013 Pew Fellowship in the Arts.  He received his Bachelors degree in cello performance with a minor in oud performance from the Higher Institute of Music in Damascus. He relocated to Chicago in 2000 to pursue a master’s degree at the DePaul University School of Music.  Kinan is also a composer, writing music that is influenced by Eastern and Western traditions. Al-Bustan has commissioned him for several new compositions, notably:  “Roads to Damascus” with visual artist Kevork Mourad premiered in February 2013; {De}perception with digital artist Ayman Alalao premiered in May 2015, “Of Night of Solace: Fantasia on Andalusian Muwashshah Poetry” premiered in December 2015, and “Nur: A Musical Journey in Sufi Poetry” premiered in April 2016.

Soumya Dhulekar: Programs Coordinator

Soumya Dhulekar
Soumya Dhulekar

Soumya earned her BFA in Art History with a Concentration in Curatorial Studies from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2014 and moved to Philadelphia shortly after. Soumya has over four years of teaching and non-profit experience. She was a recipient of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Long Term Residency Grant from 2015-2017, working at Asian Arts Initiative to create two long-term projects with middle school youth. She joined the Al-Bustan team in June 2017.



Zoe Rayn Evans: Marketing Associate

Zoe Rayn Evans

Zoe completed her B.A. in Advertising with a minor in Art History at Temple University’s School of Media Communication and the Tyler School of Art, where she also gained experience in event production. In the past year she was social media coordinator at Gelli Arts and gallery assistant at Arch Enemy Arts. She assisted in planning the “Truth to Power” exhibition at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, artist Michael Reedy’s debut at the SCOPE Miami Art Fair, and the Signs for Solidarity initiative. Zoe grew up in dance studios and the theater and worked this past year as Choreographer and Assistant Director at her Alma Mater’s theater program. Outside of the visual and performing arts, she enjoys reading and going to the movies and concerts.


Bushra Alfaraj: Administrative Coordinator

Bushra Alfaraj

Bushra, an Arab American, spent most of her life among multicultural groups within the Middle East and the United States. She has a Master of Science in Digital Media from Drexel University and a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Having been surrounded by diversity throughout her lifetime, she is passionate about bridging cultural gaps while celebrating unique identity traits among people, and strongly believes that the arts are an ideal method of highlighting common values and interests. Bushra blogged for Al-Bustan as a contributing author, and was a Fellow for the National Network for Arab American Communities’ Transformative Leaders Program before taking on a full-time position in July 2017 with Al-Bustan.


Ayman Alalao: Digital Designer

Ayman Alalao
Ayman Alalao

Ayman is a digital designer with over eight years experience in the design field, focused on web and interactive projects. Born and raised in Damascus, Syria, Ayman studied Visual Communication at Damascus University School of Fine Arts and in May 2011 completed his Master of Science in Digital Design at Philadelphia University. Ayman has been working part-time with Al-Bustan since fall 2009.




Elizabeth Taylor-Mead: Development Consultant

Elizabeth Taylor-Mead

Over the span of Elizabeth’s transatlantic career she honed her development skills to significantly further the goals of several organization. Before moving to Philadelphia in 2015, Elizabeth had spent a third of her life in New York, a third in London, and a third in Boston. She co-founded Metropolis Pictures, an award-winning independent documentary film company in London, and was Managing Director for 15 years. In Boston she moved from film production to exhibition, development and community engagement, serving until 2011 as Associate Director of the Coolidge Corner Theatre, one of the most successful non-profit Art House cinemas in the U.S. She returned to London to accept the position of Executive Director of the Phoenix Cinema, England’s oldest continually running film theater.