During my first years in Germany, I have visited all sorts of fairs and so called “culture weeks”. Be it the annual Grüne Woche or ‘Green Week’, an exhibition to get to know the Russian Federation, The Long Night of Science or The Long Night of Religions. Berlin has them all and this week, even Saudi Arabia made it to the area between the Sony Center and various cafés near the Potsdamer Platz.
I arrived to the heavy smell of Arabic coffee and henna. Probably more than a hundred people moved slowly among the stands that looked like sand stone buildings typical for Saudi Arabia. People were standing in line, taking pictures, talking to the people who kept the event running for about a week now.
Even though I expected it to be otherwise, the attending audience was rather different. I heard a mixture of German, Spanish, Russian, Turkish and obviously some Arabic. I did not know what I was expecting, even after one year of living in the capital Riyadh but the most eye catching thing were the paintings hung up on the wall. This is for every westerner who thinks Saudi Arabia has not a single art item to show.
See this as a follow up to my post ‘A Visual Intro to Saudi Art’
There may have been no camels, and the palm trees were fake, but therefore there was a bedouin tent with carpets, pillows dates and coffee and what would a Saudi culture week be without actual Saudis?
Dear Saudi men living abroad, here is a little business idea for you, depending on how liberal your country of stay is: Get out your whitest thobe and everything that goes with it, put it on and go for a little walk. The average open minded westerner will die to have a picture taken with you! Well, I do not know how such a thing would work in real life without such an event in the background (probably not worth finding out), but the amount of people standing in line to take a picture with a traditionally dressed Saudi guy was remarkable.
The event was organized by both men and women. Some from Saudi Arabia, some from Germany who were just there to help out with the enormous crowds of people. My grandparents asked me this morning how men and women managed to work together if they are so strictly religious, avoiding one another for the sake of segregation.
Well, they actually can work together. They are after all people like you and me and if they had a serious problem with the things that seem so normal to us as in terms of social interaction, I am sure they would not be here in Europe and not part of this event in first place.
Following the little art gallery I came to an exhibition of Saudi traditional clothing.
And finally there was henna and it was free. Surprisingly enough everything there was free and some of the people tried to get as much info material from the stands as they could. Now somebody tell me Saudi Arabia can’t open up and the rest of the world has no interest in it. It is really all a matter of effort.
Time to catch up on what I missed during the Janadriyah festival in Riyadh, I thought and stood in line for the henna painting.