Abdulrahman Almaziad was eager to explain his culture.
“Did you ever wonder why it’s ‘Saudi’ Arabia, and not just ‘Arabia’?” he asked.
“‘Saud’ is the last name of the royal family. King Abdullah’s name is actually ‘Abdullah al Saud.’ That’s why it’s ‘Saudi’ Arabia.”
Almaziad came to Fort Collins in January to begin his studies at CSU in the intensive English program. He is now studying electrical engineering.
On Friday afternoon, he attended the Saudi National Day celebration in the sunken lounge of the Lory Student Center. The event presented a showcase of Saudi Arabia, his home country’s culture.
Posters hung on the wall – including those showing President Bush standing with King Abdullah and others explaining the ‘Hajj,’ a customary religious pilgrimage to Mecca.
Displayed next to the Saudi Arabian flag were what Almaziad explained to be, essentially, Arabian pajamas.
“Do you want to know what the flag says?” he asked, gesturing to the green Saudi flag scrawled with Arabic writing.
“It says ‘no god except for Allah, and there is one prophet: Muhammad.'”
Khaleel Alyahya, president of both the Saudi Forum With America and the Saudi Student House, said the event was an attempt to connect Saudis and Americans.
“Since September 11th, the relationship (between the United States and Saudi Arabia) has weakened,” he said.
Alyahya explained that there are unprecedented numbers of Saudi Arabian students coming to the United States to study at American universities.
“(In Saudi Arabia), these students are isolated from other cultures,” Alyahya said. “(This event) is also to help them learn to interact with people from other cultures.”
There are more than 10,000 Saudi students in the country, he added.
Alyahya also said CSU has more than 300 Saudi students – the third highest number of Saudi students at any university in the country.
As part of the attempt to re-open and strengthen the lines of communication between members of the two cultures, the Saudi Student House provided the student center crowd with lapel pins featuring the U.S. and Saudi flags with poles crossed.
In addition to the pins, the group provided a traditional Saudi pastry called baklava, as well as Arabic coffee and tea.
“Saudi coffee is different from American coffee,” Alyahya said. “Saudis don’t use sugar in their coffee. The baklava is sweet enough.”
Almaziad said he prefers the Arabic coffee as opposed to its American counterpart, mainly because it’s what he grew up with.
“My family drinks American coffee, too,” he added. “Especially my brother. Like, every morning.”
Back at the celebration, Almaziad watched a video projected on a large screen depicting Saudi Arabians doing things like working at computers and conducting scientific research. The video then switched to views of a city bustling with life and traffic.
“That is Riyadh,” Almaziad said, explaining that Saudi Arabia’s capital city is much bigger than Fort Collins and Denver.
Swaying to traditional Saudi music, Almaziad added that he feels right at home at CSU.
“I feel like there is no difference between an international student and anyone else,” he said. “If you follow the rules, you will be OK, and that’s a good thing.”
Staff writer Geoff Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.