The purpose of this blog is to explore cross-cultural Saudi/non-Saudi relationships and their broader Arab-Muslim/Western contexts, as well as the background for improving understanding across these cultures.
Happy Eid Chiara, May it be a blessed one for you and your loved ones :)
Funny story...Today I was out buzzing around running errands when I realized I was hungry and wanted lunch. I decided to stop and have Indian food as it was very close by. As I am parking I notice a Muslim family walk into the restaurant with the mom's whole head covered including everything,except a slit for her eyes. I think "ooohhh I have to see this...I wonder how she is going to manage to eat very wet, drippy Indian food with her face covering on and not get a mess. Here is my chance to observe how it is done". I'm always up for a learning experience. I walk into the restaurant...which is a very small restaurant to begin with...and almost take a step backwards. First, it is almost never ever crowded, but here in this little tiny restaurant were wall to wall Muslims in every manner of dress. I stood there surveying the scene and wondering to myself why this place was packed with Muslims in particular. Generally there is a mixed crowd. I am the one that sticks out like a sore thumb...standing there in my shorts, t shirt and flip flops in contrast to everyone who is covered almost completely. I decide this is too good to pass up and take a seat not far from the buffet...where I can see everyone.While sitting there it became abundantly clear to me that today must end Ramadan because there was no way Muslims would be out eating mid afternoon...secondly, as I watched each person go to the buffet, it felt like many of them were out in their "Sunday best". But more than that was the variety of the crowd and their choice of clothing. A family whom I took to be from Africa somewhere had on caftan like clothes and that style that is common to Africa. The father wore what appeared to be shockingly sapphire blue silk robe with a little pill box hat. His wife was in a patterned outfit with a head covering and the older lady wore no head covering at all.Then there was a big group of Somalis in their "robes" but some of the women wore makeup. Then there was the group of young Somali girls who were fashionable in their abercrombie shirts, long skirts and a very lovely scarf lightly and care freely thrown over the head hardly covering it at all, but looking so pretty.Then there was the african looking young man who wore a saudi outfit complete with the keffiyeh.Finally there was the family I mentioned earlier who, among all this crowd, I found a bit unsettling. First, they looked "white" or at least the father did...who knows what the woman looked like. He had a longish salalfi type beard. The woman was at the buffet the same time I was twice, made eye contact with me twice but did not smile at all. You can see the eyes crinkle when someone smiles and she didn't. In fact, she turned to the somali women who were at the buffet waiting their turn and asked them a question about the food even though I was closer and not a foreigner. That I found a bit odd as it was far more likely that I would speak English than they (if one were to venture a guess). That small gesture on her part made me feel like the "other" like nothing else. It felt to me like "better to talk to a sister who MIGHT speak English than someone who surely would speak English but was obviously not Muslim". That made me uncomfortable. The rest I enjoyed and was having fun at all the choices in just this one restaurant. All of them of different styles, degree of cover,probably different countries etc. I was enjoying knowing that this was a special occasion for them and that undoubtedly they were thrilled to be able to eat. Unfortunately, that small action on the "salafi" woman's part sort of brought me back to reality and I went from enjoying the group to feeling like an outsider. Too bad.
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