a cultural immersion project by mary ellen clubb n.
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A cultural immersion project by Mary Ellen Clubb. Arabian culture & the middle east. What is the history of Saudi Arabia?.

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what is the history of saudi arabia
What is the history of Saudi Arabia?

Although the evidence of human presence in the area dates back to almost 20,000 years ago, King Abdulaziz Al-Saud established the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932. Al-Saud is credited with introducing modern roads, technology, and trade systems to the country. He created the first educational systems in Saudi Arabia and encouraged trade, creating a crossroads for commerce in the Middle East (Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, 2011). During this same time period, large quantities of oil and petroleum were discovered in Saudi Arabia, making the kingdom an important supplier during WWII (MidEast Web, 2003). In 1973, Saudi Arabia participated in a boycott for the United States and Netherlands. After the Arab-Israeli War that same year, oil prices increased significantly, resulting in a booming economy and greater wealth for Saudi Arabia (History of Nations, 2004).

Now the kingdom is ruled by Kind Abdullah, who pushes for world peace, stability, and security. He appointed his brother, Sultan bin Abdulaziz, as the Crowned Prince, who will be King Abdullah’s successor in the event of his death or inability to perform royal duties (Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, 2011).

Saudi Arabia’s flag is green with a white shahadaand sword. The shahadais a testament to the Islamic faith, which is very important to Saudi Arabian culture (FlagSpot, 1998).

challenges for arabian people in the united states
Challenges for Arabian People in the United States:

Unfortunately, in a study, 44% of American participants said that liberties for Muslims in America should be limited (Friedlander, 2004). Because of the confusion many Americans have about the Islamic faith, it is often associated with terrorism, and Muslims must suffer many consequences.

In Saudi Arabia, punctuality is not highly valued. It is difficult for Saudis to adjust to being prompt and on time (Bedu, 2010). A good way to handle this problem is to ask Saudi students to be at least 15 minutes early. In their culture, asking them to show up at 12:00 means they should be there around 12:15.

Arabian culture excludes females frequently (Hamdan, 2005). When Saudi Arabian males come to the United States, they may not show the same respect for women that American culture does. Saudi women may feel as if they are unimportant, and may neglect education for the pursuit of a domestic housewife career.

to remedy these issues
To remedy these issues…

People must remain patient and sensitive to the culture of all foreigners. Cross-cultural communication is a great way to help people become accustomed to a new culture, and when done with compassion, can be a metaphorical lifesaver for Saudi Arabians adjusting to life in the United States. It is important to remember that because the customs of the Middle East are so different from those of the United States, everything must be taught to these immigrants, down to how to read from left to right. Although it can sometimes be overwhelming, language and culture immersion is one of the most effective ways to eliminate culture shock and help someone learn to speak a new language. So, I decided to try my hand and immerging myself in Arabian culture. It was not without challenge, but I certainly enjoyed doing it. Someday I hope to visit Saudi Arabia myself, so I can learn more about the people and their culture. I would love to buy real Arabian spices and eat authentic Arabian food, but since I cannot do that right now, I decided to spend some time with my friend Hammad and learn from him. Hopefully, in the future, I will make some more Saudi Arabian friends and be able to increase my knowledge of their culture even more, so I can find ways to effectively teach and understand these very special students.

Becoming culturally immerged is a way to gain knowledge that cannot be found in any book.

becoming culturally immerged

Hammad and Mary Ellen

Hammad and his best American friend

Becoming Culturally Immerged

To begin my project, I chose to spend an afternoon with my (very tall) Saudi Arabian friend, Hammad.

hammad s mother wasn t very happy
Hammad’s mother wasn’t very happy.

In Arabian culture, men and women are not supposed to spend time together unless they are married, so Hammad’s mom was angry when she called and found out that Hammadhad an American girl at his apartment. This made me feel bad, because she said she was afraid Hammad would abandon his beliefs and customs. She did not want him to become romantically involved with an American girl.

In Saudi Arabia, women need permission just to go outside of the home, and they must have their bodies covered completely at all times. To Hammad’s mother, an American girl is a scandalous individual who does not obey social rules and mores.

i was surprised
I was surprised…

Hammad’s mother’s reaction to my presence at his apartment seemed inappropriate to me. I felt bad that she thought I might try to change Hammad’s beliefs or distract him from his schooling.

However, once Hammad explained to her that I wanted to learn more about Saudi Arabian culture and customs, she decided she did not mind if we were friends. A few days later, Hammad told me that his mother was sending me a gift in the mail for being so nice to him and accepting his culture. How nice of her!

saudi arabian food
Saudi Arabian Food

As an experiment, I decided to cook a traditional Saudi Arabian dish with Hammad. He recommended chicken kabssah, so we headed to the grocery store to buy ingredients. Most of them were easy to find, but the type of rice that the recipe called for was unavailable, so we used simple white rice instead.

Before I made this dish, I imagined that all Middle-Eastern food was very spicy with a medley of different flavors. I learned from cooking kabssah that some Arabian food is not spicy at all, and can actually be quite bland compared to some American food, like hot wings.

Cooking this Saudi Arabian dish was a fun, enjoyable experience for both my friend and me.

A picture of kabssah from www.food.com/recipe/al-kabsa-traditional-saudi-rice-chicken-dish-289878

(Safia, 2008).

want to make your own kabssah
Want to make your own kabssah?


1.       Put the onions in a medium size pot, drizzle on the olive oil and cook at medium high heat until the onions are yellowish and starting to brown. Then put the garlic, cook for a few seconds then put in the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper and the spice mix; cook it until it becomes a thick red sauce and the tomatoes are almost melted.

2.       Put in the chicken halves. Sauté it with the sauce for a few minutes, then poor in some hot water just a little bit over the chicken and bring it to a boil. Then lower the heat to medium low and let it cook for 40-50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.

3.       While the chicken is cooking, wash the rice and soak it in cold water for 30 minutes.

4.       Take the chicken out and put it in a roasting pan. Put in the oven and broil it until it’s golden.

5.       Drain the rice from water and put it into the chicken broth. Make sure there isn’t a lot of water in the pot.

6.       Cook it on medium high heat. Let it boil until it is almost dry, but not too dry. Make sure there is a little bit of broth left in the bottom of the pot.

7.       Lower the heat to very low, cover well and cook for 10 minutes.8.       Now all you have to do is uncover, put the rice in a big serving plate, top with the chicken and serve with a yogurt salad or a green salad--enjoy a great Saudi meal.

Just follow this recipe from www.food.com/the-traditional-saudi-kabssah-136851, (Moody, 2005).


1 medium onion , diced to small cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium tomatoes , peeled and diced to small cubes

1 garlic clove , crushed

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 whole chicken , cut in half

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon cumin



basmati rice

things to remember
Things to Remember

Nonverbal communication is very different in the Middle East. Some things, like touching with the left hand, are considered very disrespectful.

Not all Middle-Eastern food is super spicy.

Literal and direct communication is the best way to establish a relationship with members of Arabian culture.

Men and women are not supposed to spend time together in Arabian culture unless they are married.

Arabian people may seem like they are shy, but they love to share their culture and appreciate people who take interest in it.

The Saudi Arabian flag is inscribed with a testament of the Islamic faith.

In every culture, an open mind is an important asset.

Saudi people like to laugh and joke, but not about things that relate to their families.

I learned all of this information while spending time with Hammad. It did not come from a book or website, but I will remember it for the rest of my life.