Arabic music echoed through the third floor of the Curris Center as Saudi women celebrated their culture on Oct. 15 in the small ballroom.
Students, faculty and staff joined the Saudi women community as they presented how they celebrate their culture through elaborate music, food and clothing.
On Sept. 26, the Saudi Student Organization (SSO) held a celebration in recognition for the country’s 82nd National Day in the Dance Lounge. The celebration the women held on Oct. 15 was their turn in recognizing their home country’s important day.
Amera Alharbi, a student from Dammar, Saudi Arabia, said she attended the event to show there is more to their culture than what the general population seems to think.
“In our culture, it is a tradition to separate the men from the women and during the ‘Saudi Day’ celebration, most of us did not attend due to respect for our culture,” she said. “Afterward, though, we did feel that it was our turn to show the public how we would celebrate Saudi Arabia.”
Alharbi said another of the women’s motives was to educate the University. She said most Americans did ask why not many women were present at the Saudi Day celebration and she would answer them it was not a sign of not wanting to celebrate, but was a preference to do two different celebrations for the day.
Alharbi said she hoped the English as a Second Language (ESL) students who attended the event learned it’s always best to be proud of their culture.
“I think the ESL students who are here all notice that the Saudi girls who are usually quiet can and do celebrate and are different when away from the men,” she said. “I do think this is something that is going to continue for many years, because it reminds people women can do things for themselves.”
This year’s Saudi Women’s Day was the first in University history and according to Reem Samatar, from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is something the SSO hopes continues to be celebrated in years to come.
“I am so happy that we did something like this,” she said. “It is a great way to teach the community and to also celebrate our culture in a great way.”
Samatar said with the majority of ESL students being Saudi, it would be a great thing to show them it’s okay to be proud of their culture. She said the way they could do that would be to introduce themselves to the University community in the way which best shows off their pride.
The University was a big help in organizing Saudi Women’s Day, which Samatar said was another sign of how supportive the University was. She said despite the school being open for 90 years, it is now more open to learning about international countries enjoying different cultural international experiences.
During the celebration, attendants could get henna tattoos, learned traditional dances and voted for the best dish of the buffet. Rachel Cornin, senior from Hopkinsville, Ky., said it was activities like these and the close-knit feeling the room had, that helped her learn more about this culture.
“I work in the office of international admissions and I know some of these women personally,” she said. “I figured this was a great way to get to know them and their culture better and to ask them personally, different questions.”
Cornin, who has studied abroad before, but has yet to travel to Saudi Arabia, said the celebration helped her realize that she would like to continue her international education and even teach English abroad. She said she loves learning more about the international community here at the University and about the fascinating language.
With such a large international population the University has, Cornin said the University should take advantage of the different learning experiences these students can offer. She said especially during the time of the conflict in the Middle East, it’s important for Murray State to learn all they can from all sides of that particular conflict.
“Many students actually do not realize the ‘terrorist’ groups that apparently run rampant are actually so few,” she said. “All of the families who are here just want what everyone wants- a great place to raise their kids, good health care and educational opportunities. Just because they are from the Middle East does not mean they do not deserve all of that.”
Written by Sam Villanueva, Staff writer.