For most of the meeting, the Doctor addressed a number of questions that he thinks most Americans ask about Saudi Arabia. He talked about what Saudi Arabia does with its oil wealth and where it goes around the world. He then discussed the role of women and the question of social development in the country. After that, he talked about terrorism in Saudi Arabia and around the Middle East. Finally he candidly discussed corruption in the country, but always made it clear that corruption is not just a Saudi issue, but an issue all over the world. His final message to the group was that he had great respect and admiration for the role that American universities have played in the country's human capital development. The Doctor said that, "The U.S. was the first and only country to open it's heart to Saudi students." All of the students going to America have had great experiences and made wonderful friends and connections. The U.S.-Saudi educational exchange has had immensely positive effects on American business, something that we should not forget.
|Al-Yamamah is in a less developed part of Riyadh, |
far out from the center of the city. On either side of the university
there is just desert.
|The girls in our group with some students and employees of Al-Yamamah.|
Many of the women at the university expressed similar things to the girls we met at King Saud University. They very much wanted to drive and had a lot of hope for the future from their job prospects to the general role of women in society. They all seemed very hard-working, intelligent, and confident in their ability to enter the workforce, despite the fact that female labor market participation in the Middle East is the lowest the world. The students that we met said that all sectors of the economy were opening up for women, and didn't see that trend changing any time in the future.
After leaving the university, we headed back to our hotel and packed for our flight to Jeddah. Surprisingly, we were given first class tickets! The flight to Jeddah took only an hour and a half or so, but we were in awe at our spacious and reclining chairs. During the flight we received Arabic coffee, tea, dates, and a delicious dinner. We really are being spoiled on this trip with our five star hotels and now first class airline tickets!
|Outside of our plane upon arriving in Jeddah.|
Once we put our luggage in our rooms, some of us walked outside of the hotel to see the Red Sea. There is a boardwalk type area very close to the InterContinental and we walked along it at around 11pm. Along the pathway there were many Saudis sitting with their families or smoking shisha. The representatives from the Ministry of Higher Education said that Jeddah residents are known to stay out very late at night, and work less than in Riyadh. I could tell, even at night, that Jeddah is a much more liberal city than capital. There were women wearing colorful abayas or hijabs, or not wearing hijabs altogether. There are also many people of different nationalities in Jeddah, and I could see all of the diversity in the city just by walking along the boardwalk.
|A fountain blowing up water out of the Red Sea.|