When looking around the Erickson Hall Kiva Friday night, traditional winter apparel staples such as boots, scarves and jeans were a rare sight.
Instead, traditional Emirati clothing such as na-aal sandals, red and white patterned ghutra head coverings and long white kandura cloaks filled many of the desks.
In honor of the United Arab Emirates’ National Day, the Saudi Student Organization threw a party to celebrate the major holiday commemorating the merging of seven individual emirates into one country 41 years ago.
Those in attendance watched students from the UAE perform the Razfah dance — a group dance reserved for special occasions — the reading of an Emirati poem in Arabic and special presentations about the history of National Day.
For many of the students in the Saudi Student Organization, the event was more than just a way for them to celebrate one of their culture’s major holidays but was a springboard to spread awareness of their culture. The UAE, which sits on the Persian Gulf bordering Saudi Arabia, has 48 students attending MSU.
“We want to show people the traditions of UAE because I don’t think many people know (about it),” civil engineering sophomore Khaled AlGhafli said. “To be honest … even though it’s different from back home, we’re trying to make it just like back home, and I love showing other people how we live.”
Economics senior Ahmed Almansouri said events such as the National Day celebration will hopefully open people’s eyes to a different culture.
“Many people, when they go to (the UAE), they get shocked,” Almansouri said. “They think all we have is desert; when people go, they see big malls, big towers.”
International relations junior Aurora Walchak-Arndt said her friends didn’t know much about the country when she studied abroad there last year.
“When I told them I went to Dubai, they thought I went to India,” Walchak-Arndt said. “Not a lot of people know … about UAE and a lot of their culture.”
Almansouri attributes some of this ignorance to confusion with other Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria — which can carry a stigma in American society.
Arabic freshman Brady Ryan said he hopes the day’s events will help lead to mutual understanding between both American and Emirati cultures.
“I think that it’s a little harder because there are so many Arab students, especially with the strong language difference, that integration can be a challenge,” Ryan said. “I think there’s a lot of reconciliation that needs to happen between the U.S. and a lot of the Arab world.”