Saudi students share Saudi Arabian culture at campus festival

Abdulrahman Aldakhil, from Saudi Arabia, passes out samples of Arabic coffee during National Saudi day on the campus of Western Kentucky University on Monday, September 23, 2013. Aldakhil has been in the States for two years and is in the ESL program now. He plans to major in Civil Engineering.

Jackson French

On Monday, the WKU Saudi Club celebrated Saudi Arabia’s National Day with a small festival between Downing Student Union and Minton Hall.

Saudi freshman Feras Gashgari said National Day is the anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s founding in 1932.

The festival, he said, serves the dual purpose of celebrating the country’s founding and informing WKU students about Saudi Arabia.

Saudi students gathered around a tent and invited others to stop by and learn about their country, history, and culture.

Several tables were set up beneath the tent, offering information about topics such as women in Saudi Arabia, arts and crafts, the unification of Saudi tribes and founding of the nation, and the King Abdullah Scholarship Program.

Gashgari said the goal of the scholarship program is to send students to study abroad to expose them to other cultures.

The program includes more than 60,000 Saudi students studying all over the world, some 25,000 of which are studying in the United States, according to a pamphlet available at the festival.

He said there are approximately 400 Saudi students attending WKU this semester, adding, “We’re the majority of international students around here.”

The festival also included stations where students could have their names written in Arabic and a table where free food and drink, including Arabic coffee, date cookies, and a dessert pastry known as Baklava, was offered.

Louisville sophomore Emily Lepping said she came to this year’s festival because she enjoyed the festival the WKU Saudi Club held last year.

“I went to it last year when it was down in South Lawn,” Lepping said. “It was really cool to be able to see all the different cultures and I really enjoyed it so I saw a tent out here so I thought I’d go ahead and stop by again.”

She said she learned about Saudi arts and prayer rugs at the event and picked up a pamphlet about cooking with dates.

“I’m a dietetic student so I’m hoping to be able to incorporate those some,” she said.

Lepping said she thinks the festival is a good opportunity to spread knowledge of the Saudi culture.

“I think it’s neat that they have all the Saudi Arabian people here, like, representing their culture,” she said.

Saudi freshman Sultan Alamri, coordinator of the event, said the festival has drawn the attention of many WKU students.

He said that by holding events such as these, he hopes American understanding of Saudi Arabia can be improved.

“We are here for the non-Saudis,” Alamri said. “We want to show them the Saudi culture.”