American students in Alkhobar
By: Abdullah Al Alami
May 11, 2012
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting a group of American students visiting Saudi Arabia in Al Khobar as part of the students’ anthropology course at Bates College. The students asked all sort of questions pertaining to Saudi culture, history, economic change, education, and women issues.
The objective of the visit was to give the students first-hand experience in delving deeply into studying different cultures and creating links between their anthropological studies and different parts of the globe. I said in a previous article “What a vision!,” and I’m glad to repeat it here one more time. Listening to the students’ questions who attended my talk, I could see eagerness to learn and to share. Leena Al Naser, a Saudi student who organized the Bates trip along with Dr. Loring Danforth, were so kind to give me the opportunity to share my thoughts with the students. I am all for these cultural exchange programs, and I call on our Ministry of Education to send our students overseas to learn more and share our culture.
Soon after, I received a letter from Dr. Danforth:
“Dear Mr. Al-Alami, Thank for your presentation, just what the students needed to hear. They are exhausted, so I hope my comments will help for your article. We will go to Riyadh, Madain Saleh and Jeddah. We have visited the Dhahran Aliya School, PMU and many of the Aramco facilities. One of our students was listening to the presentations of several young Saudi women, when she left the room in tears. I went out to see what the problem was. She told me she was so inspired by young Saudi women who had told her that she could change the world. It was a very moving event. On the bus two Saudi young people were discussing Islam and describing the important role it played in their lives, then we heard the call to prayer. I was overwhelmed.
I have told our students that they have been given a priceless gift — the opportunity to learn about and experience first hand a culture that is very poorly known and understood in the US.
I have told them that they have a moral obligation to reciprocate by devoting the rest of their lives to fighting the negative stereotypes and misunderstanding that exists in the US when it comes to Saudi culture and people. Among the ideas I have for continuing this process are: Leading a semester abroad program so Bates students could study at PMU and do internships with Aramco, Dhahran Aliya school, or the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, and having some young Saudi artists hold an exhibition at the Bates art gallery and come to Bates to talk about their work.
I hope this is helpful and look forward to reading your article. Thank you again for your very powerful presentation.
With best wishes, Loring
Tweet: “Civilization is the order and freedom is promoting cultural activity.” - Will Durant