Monday, April 8, 2013

A Salute to the Future of Saudi Arabia

Once in a while I am given the opportunity to experience some pretty amazing things here in Jeddah .  When I was invited to be a judge for the senior girls’ graduation projects at Dar Al Fikr School, I had no idea how captivated I would be or how much I would genuinely enjoy myself.  It was such an inspiring and gratifying experience for me to see these talented young women with such poise, passion, determination, direction, and creativity.  I went to the school on two separate days and saw five girls’ presentations each day.   Their drive and motivation was mind blowing.  

This year marked the 12th annual senior graduation projects at Dar Al Fikr.  Students began thinking of ideas for their projects long before their senior year began.  Progress was checked along the way with deadlines to be met, corrections made, and guidance offered.   Girls were given the choice of making their presentations in either English or Arabic, whichever they were most comfortable with.  Of course I was there on days when presentations were made in English.  

Each girl took to the stage individually and made her presentation, describing how and why she chose her project, as well as obstacles she faced in accomplishing her goals and giving thanks and credit to those who inspired, assisted, and guided her.   Some presentations included photos or other visual items such as their products, samples of their work, and Power Point presentations.  Many students even enlisted the assistance of their fellow classmates to help with demonstrations.

The projects themselves varied widely in their themes and focus.   “SOS - Save our Smiles” was the name of Alanoud’s senior project.  Spurred on by the thought that Saudis don’t seem to smile enough, Alanoud organized not one, not two, but THREE events which focused on getting people to smile.  Not only that, she also coordinated her efforts with Destination Jeddah magazine, writing several articles about her idea and advertising her events in the process.  
One young woman named Lillian created her own line of jewelry which reflected her Saudi heritage and culture.  She worked with a local jeweler every step of the process and the results were magnificent.    

Lama created a whole line of innovative Saudi souvenirs and called it "A Piece of the Kingdom."  Surprisingly, souvenirs are quite difficult to find here in Jeddah, so there is a genuine need for this type of industry.  One of my favorites of Lama’s line combined the red and white checked man’s scarf with the embroidered cap worn under the scarf to make beautiful zippered bags. 
Madawi, another artistic and talented senior, painstakingly glued tiny beads onto selected areas of large black and white photos of the architecture of Makkah, creating a brilliant effect of beauty.  

Another inventive girl named Loulwah organized and conducted a spelling bee for elementary students from several local schools.  Spelling bees are not generally commonplace here in Saudi Arabia.  

Ghada, a senior with a special interest in medicine, blew me away with her senior project:  a medical game she invented and called “I’m No Doctor.”  She created a game board, game questions and rules in the hopes of empowering people with general knowledge about their own health.  
Raghad’s love for Japanese culture and language paved her path for her graduation project.  She created a guidebook and dictionary for fellow lovers of Japanese culture.   

Perhaps the most thoughtful and far reaching effort was put forth by Rola, a senior who wanted to do something that would benefit the lives of orphans in Jeddah.  Rola undertook a charitable project to transform an entire wing, including bedrooms and living space, of a local orphanage into a comfortable homey place for the orphanage’s youngest inhabitants, ranging from newborn to five years old.  You can read about her project in this Saudi Gazette article. 

Senior girl Ayah combined her passions for photography and history and went down to Al Balad, the old historic part of Jeddah, taking photos of the area.  She photo shopped them and presented her charming and lovely photos in an artful display.  

I wish I could have attended all of the days there were presentations that week.  Other projects included things like gourmet cooking, cake design, furniture design, poetry, painting, a historical novel about the life of one girl's grandfather, and several more creative ideas.

The judges’ panel was made up of school administrators, business women, former Dar Al Fikr students, and others.   After each girl’s presentation, the judges were allowed to make comments and ask questions.  Being able to think on their feet by answering the judges' questions was also considered in each girl's score.

I would like to thank Mrs. Baker for inviting me to be a judge at this amazing event.  It was truly an honor.  I cannot say enough how greatly impressed I was by these young women.  They are the future of Saudi Arabia - and that future is looking pretty darn bright.


  1. How inspiring to see these talented young women. And nice for you to get involved with the community.

    1. Hi Gaelyn - I was so impressed with the amount of thought and effort that went into these projects. It was very encouraging to see these young people with such ambition, passion, and knowledge.

  2. Some years ago when I was active in amateur astronomy in NJ, I was asked to participate as a judge in a science fair. I was very impressed with the students and the quality of the work. I can only imagine what fun you had.

    1. Hi Jerry - I truly don't know how I would fare if I were in school today. When my son took HS biology, I was totally lost! It's really impressive how much these kids can absorb.

  3. I like the campaign based on Saudis not smiling enough. How about a campaign to get rid of the veil so people can see if, at least, half the population smiles enough?

  4. Saudi will become a constitutional monarchy.