Read and listen to NPR’s "The World" Feature about our visit: Henhouse Prowlers Jamming with Oud Players in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia, which takes up nearly all of the desert and grasslands of the Arabian Peninsula, is the homeland of Islam. Each year, 2 million Muslims make the hajj, or pilgrimage, to the cities of Mecca and Medina to fulfill the duty of Muslims physically and financially able to do so. Once a land of tough pastoralist clans, Saudi Arabia came under one government after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, as the House of Saud gradually conquered other clans and, after 1932, assumed a hereditary monarchy that enforced strictly conservative Islamic ways.
Saudi Arabia. What a place. While some of the culture in this amazingly beautiful country can be hard to wrap your head around, the people we met really brought home the whole concept of the people of a country being a separate entity from the laws and government. We were able to explore ancient cities and inhale the dry desert air. It's safe to say that not many Americans get a chance to visit this country and we felt honored to not only be there, but to really experience it.
In the video below, Todd snuck off to get some practice before a performance at a school in Riyadh and looked up to find himself surrounded by students enamored with his dobro. It's one of those moments on these trips where you go from perceived private time immediately into a performance and connection with people. Powerful stuff.
A powerful moment
We walked through this incredible market in Jeddah and a man in a stall offered to do us up in traditional Saudi head gear (called Keffiyeh). It made us a little nervous, not wanting to be rude, but everyone encouraged us. Not being from Saudi Arabia, they felt strange on our heads and even hot. They keep you cool when the sun is out, but it was night time. As we ambled on, they started to lose their form on our heads and we didn't really know what we were doing. Out of the crowd steps a young man who proceeds to help us completely at random and Aaron happened to catch it on his phone.