Monday, January 13, 2014

A toast with “Saudi Champagne”

We were up early again today to go visit the U.S. embassy in the morning. All of the embassies in Riyadh are in a compound called the Diplomatic Quarter. We weren’t allowed to take pictures once we were in the compound for security reasons (so no pictures there ☹).

We met with some Foreign Service officers who are stationed in Riyadh and we discussed Saudi Arabia/U.S. relations and discussed problems that currently face Saudi Arabia. It was interesting to get the perspective from the U.S. and then compare their perspective to the Saudi peoples’ perspective.

We then went to the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. Here, we got to see very old Islamic documents that have been preserved by the center. We also got to see how old documents are restored. We were shown the deep freezer that kills all the microbes that feed on paper and then watched specialists restore the actual documents.

We then drove to an ancient part of the city that is currently being restored. We weren’t allowed to enter the city due to construction, but it was awesome to see the restoration from the outside. Because Riyadh seems to be under construction, being built, and everything seems new, it was refreshing to see the historic part of Riyadh being taken care of and restored.

Later that afternoon, we visited a NGO, called the Princess Anood Cultural Center. Meshail, the young woman I met yesterday at KSU introduced us to this NGO because she volunteers for the youth program Warif, which is run through the Princess Anood Cultural Center.

There, we discussed how volunteering and charity is usually viewed as an activity that is done during holy festivals or other religious occasions and not something that is done regularly. The younger generation is becoming more active in volunteering on a regular basis and volunteering is becoming more popular in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia doesn’t really celebrate New Year’s Eve so we just had some “Saudi Champagne” at dinner. Saudi champagne is like a sparkling apple cider drink that is popular in Saudi Arabia (since there is no alcohol). While I fell asleep before midnight in Saudi, I was awake at 8 a.m., which was midnight in the U.S., and I got to watch the ball drop (New York Times Square).

Happy New Year!

xoxo Maddy

— Madalyn Goss is a junior political science major with a Middle Eastern Studies minor.

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