(1) When was the Kingdom tower built? 1999, or somewhere around there…
(2) What is the significance to the beads and plaques hanging on the school walls? The beads are Islamic prayer beads. Most Muslim men carry them around. The plaques are artistic drawings/paintings of Mosques. I included these pictures to show how religion is reflected in all classes—from English to art.
(3) Why were you able to take so many pictures? Basically, the only things that were off limits were some women and security checkpoints. Many women we met let us photograph them, because they are more traditionally liberal. However, many women strictly follow tradition and only like their male relatives to pay them attention. (Which I respected.)
(4) What were the Saudi students like? They were like American students. The group of Middle Eastern female students volunteering at the Help Center were really outgoing. The laughed a lot, and reminded me a lot of my students! I was really impressed with how polite all the students were, and how eager they were to share their lives with me. (Now hopefully they respond to the letters I gave!)
(5) Are you bringing back souvenirs?? TOO MANY!! I want to keep you all in suspense!
(6) What differences in engineering have I noticed? Argh, good question! The buildings here tend to be in more creative geometric shapes, I think. Lots of shiny glass that extends along the lengths of the buildings.
(7) Are hotels like the one I stayed in common? There are lots of nice hotels. There are plenty of Saudis who have a lot of money (and a lot who don’t.)
(8) What kinds of foods? I feel like I’ve answered this one quite a bit. Lots of meat and seafood. It’s all good!
(9) Is Saudi Arabia as developed as I thought it would be? Is there a lot of American influence? Saudi is developed in certain places. The government has done an excellent job of taking oil revenue and using it to build infrastructure—roads, hospitals (though one person said there aren’t enough), sky scrapers, etc. There are some American fast food places, and certain brands. However, the Saudis are a proud, nationalist people. They are not about to let there thousands year old traditions die out to American pop culture.
Was there an elevator in the Kingdom Tower? Thank goodness there was! It was over a hundred floors! Nearly all buildings we were in had elevators. J
What were your stereotypes towards Saudis, and how did they change through your trip? Let me address that one in a final blog entry.
(10) Can everyone go in the malls? Excellent question. Malls have “family hours” where women are allowed with male relatives. All other times are men only.