Saudi's are very curious about westerners and they tend to put me into that bracket when they meet me. But in my mind, I'm Maori, not a westerner which any native Kiwi can tell you means we have some distinct and other subtle differences in how we approach life. One of the common activities we share with Saudi though is whanau hui - family gatherings.
While Kiri was here my Saudi friends were very keen to meet her and they went to considerable trouble each time we were invited over. One occasion was actually a get together put on especially for her after she asked R how Saudi girls dance. R's response was to invite us to a family party at the farm of one of her husband’s brothers.
We met lots of her rellies, we swam in the pool, ate an awesome meal, had a chin wag (most of them could speak very good English), and then they turned up the Arabic music and taught us, at least attempted to teach us, Arabic dancing. It was a great evening and they are wonderful people.
"I did have a DVD of us attempting to dance that was going to go in here but.....
Hubby had traveled down to their farm with us. He spent the evening doing guy things in the guy area – which was mostly watch the Football World Cup semi and talk. Not nearly as much fun as we were having.can't find it."
I did ask Kiri what it felt like to travel an hour or so each way sitting next to R in all her gear, ie abaya and niqab. Kiri wasn’t fazed. (Obviously lots of her mother’s gene pool there).
Last week I received an invite to the family home of N, that is to her parents place, to spend the evening at their usual weekly family gathering. I consider that a bit of a privilege. It was also a really nice evening. On that occasion I met N’s father. He was very nice and after spending a bit of time in the lounge with us, he headed off to the men’s part of the house and we never saw an adult male again for the rest of the evening.
It seems, from my observations, which could be flawed because powers of observation are not my particular skill, that all Saudi families have one day a week when everyone comes together. Well, as together as you can get in Saudi what with the no-mixing rules.
Anyway, it’s kind of like the weekly Sunday roast we used to have with our kids – something we learnt from MaD (a.k.a. Mum and Dad) and their Sunday roasts, though Mum’s roast is much more delish.... There’s nothing like mum’s crunchy-as pork roast crackling, mums tasty homemade gravy, mum’s ‘is there any more’ creamed paua and mum’s totally scrumptious hot apple pie with real cream poured over the top..... mmmmm.
Mum and Dad ....a.k.a. MaD
Where was I? Family get togethers....
N, along with her brothers, sisters and their spouses, spends Tuesday evening at her parents place. All the kids, as well as the maids to look after the kids, are brought along too. The women talk, the kids run around, everyone eventually has dinner. A few hours later, they go on their merry way.
On Thursday afternoon, N travels an hour out of town to her husband’s whanau get together. My other Saudi friends have this same routine, though on different days, with their families and in-laws.
This regular staying in touch provides at least two days in the week where the women have something to do. It also means Saudi’s maintain very close family ties. I’m guessing this is the basis for the rumour that it is very hard for Expats to get to know Saudis or more precisely, to break into their family circle. Though, I haven’t had much trouble, soooo....not sure where that came from. Maybe the women are more open than the men.
The Husband did mention to one of his Saudi colleagues that other expats find it hard to get to know his fellow countrymen and women. He was surprised at that. As he said, we are very welcoming and hospitable which, so far, I've found to be true.
The other day I spoke to a Canadian friend and he mentioned that he and his wife knew a few Arabs, but they weren’t true Saudi’s....meaning their origins were from Syria and other such places. He asked how it was I met Saudis. I said it’s easy....Start by saying hello.....works wonders. I've found that the Saudi’s are more than happy to talk, but they will rarely take the initiative and start a conversation with a stranger. So, hello usually gets a response.
I have been asked many times by expat women, ‘What are Saudi ladies like at home’. I’m not really sure what they expect to hear...The women I know talk, they laugh, they cook, they get hoha at the kids, they wear normal clothes, they have dreams and goals, they have budgets to live within, lives to lead, homes to organize husbands to manage (manage??? – Maybe I've been married to long). Some study, some work. They are very friendly, very hospitable and, to date, the ladies I know, love company and having fun.
They are also quite interested in us western folk. As Hubby says, we are as intriguing to them as they are to us. It has crossed my mind that if Saudi’s want to get to know a ‘real western woman’ they are slightly short changed with me. It’s funny but I don’t consider myself ‘western’. I’m a Kiwi native. From Kaeo.