Saudi Arabia festival celebrates Saudi culture and customs

WKU Saudi Club celebrate the the founding of Saudi Arabia on South Lawn.  Saudi Arabia’s founding was 82 years ago.

Tyler Prochazka

It’s not every day senior Gioia Jiles gets her arm painted with henna and is asked to join in a traditional Saudi Arabian dance, but for Jiles this was no ordinary day.

On Wednesday, the WKU Saudi Club held a Saudi Arabia festival on South Lawn celebrating Saudi Arabia’s founding 82 years ago. The festival included singing, dancing, free food and even literature all showcasing various aspects of Saudi Arabian culture and customs.


Jiles said she enjoyed the festival because it taught her about some aspects of Saudi culture she did not know.

“I’m friends with some of them and I don’t get to see this part of them,” Jiles said.

Saudi Arabian graduate student Abdulrahman Alfurhud said these types of events can help people “come together.”

“It helps bring our culture to Bowling Green,” he said.

One aspect of Saudi Arabia that Alfurhud said he thought was misunderstood was the roles of Saudi women. He said the festival’s “Saudi Women” section helped to counteract some of these misunderstandings.

“They can maintain religious rules, like wearing their hijab, but stay smiling,” Alfurhud said.

This is one area that Jiles said she gained new insight by going to the festival and said she now sees Saudi women’s culture “from the other side.”

“The media made it seem like they shun women, but they don’t,” Jiles said.

Saudi student Ghaidaa Mimani, who is in her second semester at WKU, said students should experience Saudi culture to better understand it and the festival is one way to do so.

Mimani said she chooses to wear the hijab and said Muslim women can essentially “do everything” that men can do in Saudi Arabia.

“If they haven’t met anyone from Saudi Arabia they may misunderstand a lot of things,” she said.

Mimani is one of the many Saudi Arabian students who have received a full-ride scholarship from the Saudi government to study abroad as part of its goal to educate Saudi youth abroad and bring them back to Saudi Arabia to help the economy.

As part of this program’s mission, Alfurhud said he plans to study in the United States, but return to Saudi Arabia in order to help establish a more “advanced” country like the United States.

“We are here to study and help Saudi Arabia take a forward step in the development process,” he said.

Although Alfurhud ultimately plans to return to Saudi Arabia, while he is at WKU he said it is important to hold these types of events not only for people to better understand his country and culture, but the religion that has helped shape it as well.

“You see a lot of negative messages, and we want to change that message,” he said.