By Gisselle Hernandez, Features Editor
After two years, the Saudi National Day event came back full swing with new information for curious Murray State students, faculty and staff on Oct. 13 at the Curris Center. The all-day event, hosted by the Saudi Student Organization, provided authentic Saudi-Arabian cultural dishes, a montage of the country’s history and the new addition of information on opportunities in Saudi Arabia. The theme revolved around Saudi Arabia’s past, present and future and Abdulrham Algarni, member of SSO, said the event was a celebration of the country’s 22nd annual national day.
This year’s event, as opposed to the one two years ago, focused more on the opportunities in Saudi Arabia but Algarni said the event was also a way to inform people on the importance of knowing their culture.
“There’s a lot of people around the world who don’t know different cultures,” he said.
“The biggest benefit, I think, is people become more friendly when they know about each other and know about the opportunity nations have and how we can use those opportunities to improve our land.”
The dance lounge held traditional sitting areas for guests, henna tattooing, traditional Saudi Arabian clothing for students to try on and a flash history lesson from one of the members.
Wael Nassar, president of SSO and graduate student from Saudi Arabia, said the main reason for doing these events is to change people’s minds and the stigmas behind the Saudi Arabian culture. He said most people might know Saudi Arabia as the country with all the oil, but he said the country has much more than just that.
“We want America to know we don’t have a desert like they thought,” he said. “[At the event], we mention things that are raising our economy; we think our country has a lot of huge opportunities for people to come live there and invest. We have a plan to improve our country and make it better.”
Algarni said most of the discrimination against Saudis has diminished over the years, but with the election raising certain concerns, he wishes to let students know they are friendly and open-minded. He said all the students at Murray State have been nice so far, learning about their history through events like the Saudi National Day. It shows a piece of their homeland through food, dances and facts about the country.
Nassar said he visits home sometimes, saying the last time he was there was for his youngest brother’s wedding. He said family plays a significant role in their culture. One of the things that he said surprised him when he came here was how quickly people move out once they turn 18.
“When I feel the distance between us, I really miss my parents,” he said. “In our culture, if you cannot see your parents at least once a week, it’s a problem.”
Another challenge that foreign students face is knowing what is okay to say and what isn’t, said Algarni. He said he didn’t know certain words were inappropriate until he saw people’s reactions when he used it in the U.S.
“The nations don’t know each other; they don’t know other country cultures and what they mean,” he said. “I asked my teacher and she said, ‘don’t use that word, it’s not good here,’ so I stopped using it. I didn’t know. Small information like that helps people live with each other.”
But apart from cultural divides, both Nassar and Algarni said the Murray community has been very welcoming. Algarni, after meeting with President Bob Davies and Mayor Jack Rose, described them as very kind people. Nassar said he is grateful he and his friends are able to celebrate his country’s national day in Murray. He said even after he graduates this semester, the SSO will make sure to host this event every year.
“If we can celebrate it in my country, we can celebrate it here, too,” he said.