More than 250 people enjoyed food and culture while listening to speakers and learning about Saudi culture at a convention Saturday night hosted by the Saudi Forum of America.
“We sent our message to everyone,” said Khaleel Al-Yahya, the president of the organization that hosted the convention. “We allowed both sides to communicate peacefully.”
Speakers included the president of the Saudi Cultural Mission, which is the division of the Saudi embassy responsible for education as well as Saudi college students from across the country.
Amal Namngani and Kholood Helmi, both female students, delivered speeches about what it’s like to be a Saudi woman. They addressed the perceptions that many westerners hold about the oppression of Saudi women including the use of head coverings.
“A woman is respecting her body and not allowing strangers to see it,” Helmi said.
She explained that it is an honor for women to cover themselves and not allow men to see their beauty.
Nazeeh Alothmani, a Ph.D. student at the University of Pittsburgh, said that when he first arrived he was scared of people breaking into his home and getting shot in the grocery store parking lot.
His first purchase here was a baseball bat to protect his family.
“Where did I get these ideas? Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Freddy Kruger,” he said. “I got them from Hollywood.”
Alothmani said that meeting and befriending Americans was what made him realize what life in the United States was really about.
Alothmani had nothing but movies to go off of when forming expectations of the United States and pointed out that many Americans do the same when forming opinions about what the Middle East is like.
“If Hollywood is doing such a terrible job of showing what is in its backyard, you can only imagine what it is doing for cultures in the rest of the world,” Alothmani said.
Mazied Al-Mazied, the president of the Saudi Cultural Mission, which is the department of the embassy that handles education, attended the conference and was happy with the event and CSU as a host university for Saudis.
Al-Mazied considers CSU one of the best universities in the U.S. for Saudi students because of the welcoming atmosphere and accepting student body.
“It is an excellent opportunity for our students to mingle and learn about American subcultures,” Al-Mazied said.
He also said that the best way for Saudis and Americans to understand each other is to interact and build friendships.
“We only understand each other if we interact directly,” he said.
Al-Mazied emphasized the similarities between life for Saudis and Americans.
“They are young students just like Americans,” he said. “It is the same thing all over the world.”
Staff writer Emily Polak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.