This past Friday, some of the Saudi students at Robert Morris University showed off the best of their country.
Of course, because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Saudi National Day celebration at RMU took place online.
As part of the program, the students shared information about three of Saudi Arabia’s largest cities — Riyadh, Jeddah and Damman. Included in each presentation was a short promotional video, which gave the people watching the program an opportunity to see some of the best features of each city. (My favorite moment was seeing the stunning Jeddah Flagpole in King Abdullah Square. Someday, if God wills it, I’d very much like to see it in person.)
What I missed most about this year’s celebration was the face-to-face interaction I’ve enjoyed in years past with the Saudi students and their families. I remember two years ago a little girl — she was still in a stroller — desperately wanting one of the green or white balloons that filled the hall where the Saudi National Day celebration was taking place. I was able to grab one, and I started to tie it to her stroller so she’d be able to keep it.
Her mother and I tried to communicate, but she spoke only a few words of English and I speak no Arabic. Eventually, I figured out the little girl didn’t want it attached to her stroller; rather, she wanted to hold it.
The face-to-face celebrations always include efforts to provide the RMU community with informational tables and a cultural program. The students are eager to share with their guests what they know of their country. Of course, the evening is capped off with a wonderful dinner.
I hope next year that I can again enjoy this annual event in a crowded room with lots of people. But more importantly, I hope the Saudi students know that each year they bring a smile to my face as they make me more informed of their country, their faith, their culture and their people.