November 1, 2007

Saudi 33

November 1, 2007
Happy Halloween, one day late.

Well, folks, last night I attended a Saudi wedding. Wow. I had heard they were amazing. A student got married. She is really sweet and has had a heck of a life so far, so I wish her the best in her marriage.

I went with two colleagues who are Saudi. I felt a little awkward at first because I do not have the kind of clothing one wears to a Saudi wedding. As Basma said, wear what you would wear on a red carpet. In case you hadn’t noticed, I am not the red carpet type. So, I settled for a Maylasian bahti (batiked silk)… relied on the Saudi acceptance that foreigners try their best and away we went.

The affair was held at a wedding ballroom complex. The men with the groom were on one side. I assume they eat at dance.

The women were together, dancing to an Arabian women’s band playing all kinds of Arabian music. I have never seen so many elegant gowns. I learned two different Arabian dances. It was great.

Then the lights dimmed. The bride appeared through a curtain, then slowly walked to an area against the far wall in the center of the festitivities. She eventually arrived at the top floor of the platform, where she sat on a large white couch. This was videoed and photographed by a crew of female photographers. Everyone sat and watched this with interest. I asked if we were to stand up when the bride entered. No, says they.

After a time, The dancing started again. Her family came up to congratulate her. Then friends, then everyone else… I was part of the teachers crowd.

So, more dancing. Meanwhile, serving staff brought around trays of finger foods, Arabian coffee, cappuccino, tea, and juice drinks.

These affairs run into the night. We got there about 11:00. The bride appeared about a half hour later. Then an hour after that (I think), the lights dimmed again. The women, who had been dancing in their gowns, dawned abayas, or at least scarves to cover heads or bare parts.

Suddenly the curtains opened without much fanfare. The groom and his male relatives walked through the same curtains that the bride originally used. They approached the bride on the platform. Everyone greeted everyone (kiss, kiss), then the female relatives of the groom joined the stage after all the male courtage left. The bridge and groom sat on the couch as the female relatives danced. There was no other dancing when the groom was in the room.

After a time, they left the platform, toured an area of the ballroom that had been walled off, then left. Bless them.

The partitions were moved away revealed a feast set for royalty. No kidding. I have never seen so much beautiful food with remarkable presentation in my life. Three sushi bars, so much food of different types, I was stunned and hard pressed to choose something reasonable. By this time it was 1:30 – 2:00 in the morning. I have never eaten a large formal meal at that time, so I kept the selections small.

The deep fried prawns were exceptional. I thought about having more of them, but did not want to be a pig about it.

There were huge amounts of food left. Quite a few people left before the meal. I asked one of the ladies what they did with the left over food. They give it to charity.

I don’t think anyone had a piece of cake. It was magnificent, rising four deep tiers or so with a stiff frosting that extended from the sides of the tiers. It looked like it could fly away.

This was a real treat. Well worth the late night.

Another benefit for me personally, was being with the students from my first semester of teaching here. Most of the girls from my first 3D graphics class were there as friends of the bride. They insisted that I sit with them. The two women who took me to this event are former students who are now Tas at the school. It was a thrill to hear about their new adventures in Jeddah, working in the design community.

Talking was limited to time between songs. Egad, the music was loud.

So, a totally grand time was had by all.

The semester is well underway. We celebrated a club fair on Wednesday. I again am advising Music Club and to my great joy, there are more guitar players surfacing along with some keyboard players. Other members want to learn piano and perhaps violin. One girl wants to learn classical guitar. The only person I know who could teach that is my brother-in-law in Michiga. He is a) male and b) a touch far away.

Anyway, the night before a fellow in the compound (my bridge partner, as a matter of fact) gave me an Egyptian tabla (drum) in exchange for my teaching him guitar. I took the tabla to school yesterday as a part of the music club booth. A member from last year, who’s name and face I had forgotten (heavy sigh), attached herself to the drum and played magnificently. Another girl played myguitar and bystanders banged on tambourines and the bongo drum I picked up last year. They all played and sang Arabic songs for nearly two hours. Other people clapped along. I didn’t have to do anything except help sign people up for the club. I am thrilled. I have asked if another faculty member will be a co-advisor. I want someone to continue the tradition when I leave. With the girls all over this, it will survive into the future on its own momentum.

On another note – a flat one actually, I see the King is getting flack from folks in the UK. I read a report that the liberals are against him because of the torture of women here.
It is true that there are limitations and I wouldn’t be surprised if women are physically harmed here. But women are harmed everywhere. The leading cause of death in the U.S. among pregnant women is being murdered by husbands or boyfriends…. The second cause of death is cardiac…

Bride burnings in India.

The way women are treated in Afghanistan is horrendous and our fearless leader like the Taliban before 9/11 anyway.

You get my drift.

So, I think it is crummy that the guy is being put down when he and King Abdullah of Jordan are two fellows who are trying to make a difference here. Osama has price on the King’s head – did I tell you that already?

Anyway, the school continues to grow. We had a convocation this week. The dean listed out the college achievements in the past two years. It is impressive. The school is adding new tracts, including diplomacy so that future female amabassadors will come for us. There is a new law (prelaw) major and a couple of master’s programs on the horizon. Rather remarkable for a school that is nine years old. It is a great honor to be a part of this institution and the changes it has already brought to Saudi Arabia.

The King is trying to move Saudi into the 21 century with ties to the cultural past, but moving into an information age. One of the Princes wrote an article in the Arab News last spring calling for an end to gender segregation in the Kingdom. It is no longer needed, he pointed out, as women enter the work force and will be driving very soon.

So, that’s the latest from the desert.


S of a

Posted by at 10:29 AM