Saudi Arabia 2006

Sunday, November 26, 2006

My friend Christine sends this fitting benediction to our experience together

Thanks and praise we offer you, our God:
For shining a light into the darkness of our world, illuminating the hidden spaces with beams of hope and promise;
For shouting a word into the wilderness of our lives, filling the silent places with words of expectation and joy,
For coming to us and visiting us this day and every day with your presence, forgiving and renewing us to be your people.
For light instead of darkness,
For silence instead of fury,
For peace instead of strife,
For truth instead of illusion,
For presence instead of nothingness,
Receive our joyous thanks and praise!

Well folks, I'm thinking this is my final post. We fly from Riyahd to Dammam tomorrow and then off to Amsterdam. After a six hour layover I head to Sea-Tac and then on to PDX in Portland before truckin' back to ol' Newport, OR. I hope you've learned a little about Saudi Arabia, it's people and culture. My understanding of the Kingdom has grown to new levels and my appreciation and love of the common Saudi will remain with me long after I am home. Thanks for joining me virtually and stay in touch. If you want to learn more about Saudi Arabia, oil, and Islam I would love to talk with you more. Or you can do as the first word of the Holy Koran says, "Read".

As I said at the beginning of this BLOG: Three cities, two weeks, and one trip of a lifetime!

Ma'assalama... peace be with you...

Before this trip to the KSA I must admit that I have never eaten a date. Dates have been absolutely EVERYWHERE we've gone. They are part of the hospitality of Saudi Arabians, and I've got to tell you that I really have acquired a taste for them now! Even though I've seen a million date palms throughout this trip, I hadn't actually seen any growing until today!

Useful Phrases in Arabic now that the trip is almost over...

Good morning Sabah el khair
(reply) Sabah el noor

Good evening Masa el khair
(reply) Masa el noor

Hello Marhaba

Greetings (formal) Assalaam’alaikoom
(formal reply) ‘alaikoom Assalam

Welcome Ahlan wa-sahlan

Goodbye Ma’assalama

How are you? Kaifa halak

Fine Ana Be-khair

Yes Na’am

No La
Please Min Fadhlak

Thank you Shukran
(reply) Affwan
God willing In’sh'allah

What is your name? Ma Ismuk?

My name is Ismi

Excuse me Lo Samaht

I am sorry Ana Asif

I don’t know La Adri

Our final dinner was with His Royal Majesty Turki Ibn Sultan Ibn 'Abdual Aziz' Assistant Minister of Culture and Information... kinda fun being next to royalty!

Our final dinner was with His Royal Majesty Turki Ibn Sultan Ibn 'Abdual Aziz' Assistant Minister of Culture and Information... kinda fun being next to royalty!

Tonight we toured the compound that houses many embassies from around the world. We toured an area that seemed very peaceful and "Arabian". Dick Cheney was right here yesterday discussing Iraq with HRH King Abdullah! Condi Rice was here just hours before us... too bad I wasn't invited to join the discussion as I would've given them both an earful...

An e-mail from my friend Mohamed:

Doug, Pat and Christine

I am amazed at the catalystic reaction that this trip has caused. Not only on your part guys, but on mine as well. I am honored to have crossed paths with all of you. The highlight of my day today (although it's still early morning here) is the phrase that Pat posted "faith in people". From my perspective, I started my life with tons of "faith in people". Since 9/11 (the events themselves) and the changes that followed, that supply has dwindeled down. It was you guys, and your willingness to have "faith in people" that helped restore part of my original supplies.

Thank you

A question was asked about workers and pay. Most of the menial jobs are done by ex-patriots living in the KSA from other Muslim countries. They don't get equal pay for equal work, but they do get more than the prevailing wage in their home countries. They are men and women who leave their families behind and who have to continue to renew their work visas. Many send money home to help their families have a better life.
Unemployment is seen when people come to the KSA for a pilgrimage and then stay beyond the haij time. They live "underground" in and around Jeddah mostly and have made an industry of begging, because Muslims have an obligation to give alms to the poor. People from Asia and Africa usually come by boat and if caught are shipped back to their homelands.
Overall, the ones I've talked to are happy here, don't experience discrimination, but still have a hard life and look forward to rejoining their families "inshalla" (God willing).

Here's a few more random shots... henna hands, Americans lining up at the ATM, drive through coffee, rows of dates in a small store, old school and new school potties side by side, and Cuban cigars, as well as cinnamon bark (back) frankencense wood for incense(left) and myrrh resin (right).

We toured Najd School, another private school that costs about $6000 a year. It is K-12 taught in Arabic, but with a strong English language acquisition component. As you can see, kids are kids the world over! we asked some tough questions regarding education in the KSA, how religion (Islam) was being taught post 9/11, and how kids with special needs were being addressed. Note the paper calling for a boycott of Danish goods after they published the disparaging cartoon of the prophet Mohammed. I passed out salt water taffy from Newport for the younger ones and just about caused a feeding frenzy! I also showed the older boys this BLOG and encouraged them to add their perspectives in the comments if they would like!

Saturday night we took the one hour flight from the west coast city of Jeddah to Riyahd the capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia! It is rainy and mild here, so I am reminded of home on the Oregon coast. Alot more traffic, honking horns, and uniformed police with sub-machine guns. A rapidly growing city, but orderly in most respects. The two distinctive buildings are the Al Faisaliah Hotel (pyramid shaped with globe restaurant where we are staying) and the Four Seasons Hotel that looks like a big bottle opener!