Thursday, May 13, 2010

Socializing Saudi-style

Last weekend, we had a great opportunity to spend the afternoon with a Saudi family. Here we are with Akhmed, sitting down to a feast of khubsa - creamy rice with chicken and salad.

Akhmed is one of Josh's students who is married and has three boys. (Most students are 18 or 19, but a few are older.) He invited us to meet him and his wife Sultana at the mall so the kids could play on the rides together. His older boys, 6 and 7, are just slightly older than Misha, so they quickly bonded over roller-coasters and slides. Since his kids went to an international school last year, they speak English quite well. Misha warmed up to them very quickly. While the kids enjoyed themselves, I had a chance to get to know Sultana, Akhmed's wife. She is very nice and speaks excellent English.

Josh and Akhmed: Josh almost didn't recognize his student without his thobe on and we very nearly walked right past him!

There's nothing like a roller-coaster to solidify friendships.

Don't rock the boat: the log ride.

Then, the family very sweetly invited us over to their villa for supper. I was allowed to take off my abaya and relax as I was accustomed to, but Sultana kept covered since both of our families were together most of the evening. The only time she took it off was when I was alone with her and her children. Her youngest boy, Rayan, associates his mother's abaya with going out, so he was quite excited at first, assuming that he was going to get to go out on the town! He is just slightly younger than Sebastian, so everyone had a friend to play with.

Rayan and Sebastian.

Their home, like the typical Saudi home, has two sitting rooms - one where the women congregate to talk and relax, and one where the men do the same. Each room has a long, connected couch that snakes along all four walls. It's very impressive! As soon as Misha walked into one of the sitting rooms, he exclaimed, "Wow! How can we get a couch like this?!" -- a comment which greatly amused our hosts. We drank fresh orange juice, tea, and Arabic coffee. This was our first taste of Arabic coffee. For us, it stands in stark contrast to what we think of as coffee; arabic coffee is green - made from green coffee beans - and quite bitter, so it is often eaten with dates and bakalava - both of which we indulged in.

The boys have a tradition of playing football (that is, soccer) in the house with their father. Misha had fun joining in.

All worn out after soccer, the kids scrunch together on one of the long couches to play something on the cell phone.

Then, it was time for the feast. They prepared khubsa, a traditional meal of rice cooked in chicken broth until soft and stirred with a bit of milk, served with chicken, salad, and a salsa-like topping. We ate comfortably on the floor, like in Kyrgyzstan -- although the kids preferred to eat at the table. The meal was delicious! Afterward, we sat on the roof and learned some Arabic phrases from our hosts while the kids rode bikes and scooters. Don't worry - villa roofs are perfectly safe, surrounded by a tall cement wall. It's sort of like a backyard - on the roof!


kate said...

What wonderful host you have. I wish I could have been there enjoying that spread. I am glad Misha is able to have some new friends to play with. I am so happy you are making friends.
Love you guys,
Grandma Kate

Tanya and Aaron said...

Sounds fun! Getting into homes is the best part. We miss you over here!