The Culture of Conversation

Conversations on Culture –
A Local Encounter that Changed my Perspective – An Arabic Encounter
SAUDI ARABIA | Friday, 19 April 2013 | Views [16] | Scholarship Entry

November 2012
I had been had been travelling on a transit flight from London to Nairobi through Jeddah in Saudia Arabia where I spent about 5 hours.It was very strange not being able to communicate in English amongst a multitude of Arabs dressed in either all black or white.Even from a distance to my right,I could see groups of dark-skinned women wearing what seemed to be brightly coloured,flowing, feminine, fabrics. I assumed that they must have been Sudanese.Curiously,each and almost every person sitting and waiting for a flight seemed to be suffering from a cold.To me that too seemed somewhat strange. I thought that it was partly probably because it was quite dusty there. So to break the ice and to keep myself busy,I took random photographs of the people waiting.There were conversations taking place in Arabic by groups of mostly men or mostly women. At least I managed to say “ shukran” after taking the photographs because of the Arabic influence in Kiswahili .The only other words that came to mind were “ Ahlan Wasahlan” but of course entirely inappropriate for the visitor to express.One of the women surprised me when she stood up to leave with her husband by giving me two kisses on each cheek.That was completely out of the blue and totally unexpected. So leaning back, attempting to gradualy return back to my comfort zone, I concluded that it was probably down to the fact that most people appreciate having their picture taken.The flight itself had been fairly uneventful. It was the first time I was boarding a plane in about ten years so there was definitely a feeling of anticipation in the air. After four hundred days and nights in a Buddhist Monastery one can clearly understand the reason why.I was quite pleased to find out I had been reserved a window seat.I photographed my food which was surprisingly good for airline standards.I was served baked salmon in herbs with roast potatoes, peppers, carrots, a rocket salad that included a juicy cherry tomato, a roll with butter,and a square shaped sweet and sticky pastry.Afterwards for a change,I ordered strong black coffee which I occassionaly drink both for the taste and the fragrant aroma.

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