Getting a taste of the Saudi world

WILKES-BARRE – The makeshift tent complete with rug and pillows inside the second-floor ballroom of the Wilkes University student center was something Bader Alqahtani thought up.

The soon-to-be mechanical engineering graduate and president of the school’s Saudi Interest Club put it there to introduce students to Arab cultures.

“That was my idea,” said Alqahtani.

With the help of the embassy of Saudi Arabia, the two-year-old club hosted approximately 100 people Friday night at its Arabian Nights program in the Henry Student Center.

“The event was just to show people how we were, how we are and what we are going to be,” said Alqahtani.

The country has a rich history and much of it is foreign to people in the United States. Stereotypes persist of the people of Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East and the program aimed to dispel some of them through pictures, words and food.

During a brief presentation, Mamoun Bader, an associate professor of chemistry at Penn State Hazleton, spoke of his native land Palestine.

“I will not talk about politics,” said Bader. “Sadly there is no political solution to the Palestinian situation.”

On a large projection screen a slideshow of photos showed fields covered in flowers with hills in the background, dancers in festive dresses and lush vegetation.

“Palestine is a very beautiful land,” said Bader. “It’s people very generous people, extremely open-minded people.”

Dr. Ibrahim Almeky, a native of Egypt, acknowledged much has changed since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Prior to that “we had no issues,” he said of relations between the United States and Egypt.

Still he encouraged people to visit.

“I think Egypt speaks for itself. We’re talking about 5,000 years of history and there is nothing to be hidden,” said Almeky.

Allen Heggs said he other members of the school’s Multicultural Student Coalition are friends with members of the club. They came to network and learn about the diversity of students on campus.

“It helps tremendously,” said Heggs, 19, a sophomore from Swedesboro, N.J.

Alqahtani, 26, who is married and has three young sons, said he and other students travel from home for an education and return as engineers, doctors and professors to continue the country’s modernization and pay back those who supported them.

Marwa Aldaraweish plans to return to Saudi Arabia after graduate school. The 23-year-old English major said she will receive her undergraduate degree this year.

“I’ll teach people to love writing,” Aldaraweish said.

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