Travel Diaries – Tim Peck, Saudi Arabia
It is always intriguing to learn of other cultures and try to understand the complexity of the differing influences of culture and religion on societies.
While meeting with a potential partner and his company in Saudi Arabia, they presented our architectural design team with traditional Arabic robes, which appeared sized for someone of giant proportions measuring at least 7’–10” tall. We must have seemed puzzled by this because we were soon ushered down to the souk, where they duly measured and fitted our robes to size. It was fascinating to spend time in the antiquities section of the souk and see many of the traditional Najd artifacts, doors, shutters, and Bric-à-Brac, giving us insights into future architectural detailing utilize in some of our projects.
From there, we were taken on a tour to view the site of a potential resort hotel/residential village site located in a large depression in the wilds of the desert dunes. We were stretching our minds to imagine villas and palaces surrounding a complex featuring a golf course and swimming pools nestled into the dunes. This type of artificial oasis in the desert could only happen in Saudi Arabia.
The adventure continued now that we were appropriately dressed, and I was lucky to be visiting during Saudi National Day. It was awe-inspiring to see the degree of patriotism and national enthusiasm generated by this celebration, with every nearly every Saudi carrying a green flag and many groups riding on the roofs of their cars in a very festive spirit.
Saudi Arabia is a complex society, going through significant changes and some tensions brought about by increasing education, wealth, and exposure to the west through the media. There are substantial differences between the various areas within Saudi, with Riyadh being the most conservative and traditional area. I was fortunate to have many long discussions about cultural and religious issues with Saudi friends. They are wonderful people, naturally very generous of spirit, and dedicated to their religion in a very positive way.