Christopher Henzel, chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Riyadh.
Published and deleted — Thursday 2 March 2017
The United States and Saudi Arabia have a long history of friendship and partnership. If you visit the US Embassy, there is a gallery near the entrance where photographs display the history of our relationship, starting with a photo from 1945, when King Abdul Aziz and President Franklin Roosevelt had their famous meeting aboard the USS Quincy.
An important part of the mission of American diplomats in Saudi Arabia is to strengthen the relationship between Americans and Saudis. Learning about each other’s culture is one of the more rewarding aspects of this work. My colleagues and I enjoy deepening our understanding of Saudi history and the Arabic language, and learning about Saudi food, traditional dances, regional costumes, and increasingly, about media, drama and music. American travelers to Saudi Arabia are keen to visit the National Museum and historical sites here. I recently toured the Al-Janadriyah festival in Riyadh, and was impressed by the breadth of Saudi Arabia’s cultural and artistic exhibits.
In turn, my colleagues and I are pleased to offer opportunities across Saudi Arabia to bring together Saudi artists, musicians, athletes and teachers with their counterparts from the US. Our Embassy in Riyadh and Consulates General in Jeddah and Dhahran have lively cultural calendars, and in recent months we have brought a number of musical bands and other artists to Saudi Arabia.
?Last month, each of our posts in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahran hosted the band “Anthony Stanco and the Crucial Elements,” who performed American jazz music, and learned traditional Saudi songs. In addition to music, we sponsored a visit by comedians Will Luera and Ahmed Bharoocha, who conducted workshops for Saudi comics and performed at the embassy, at the Jeddah Comedy Club, and in Dhahran at our national conference for alumni of US exchange programs.
?We also hosted Arab-American artist Helen Zughaib, who exhibited her paintings along with several young Saudi artists in Riyadh at the ambassador’s residence, and who headed workshops at galleries and schools in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahran. At Jeddah’s recent book fair, we had an American Shelf featuring English-language books on tolerance, education, leadership and business skills for young people. This was the Consulate General’s second year participating in the book fair, one of the largest cultural events in the Western Region.
Whether it takes place at a university, gallery, museum, club, or fair, we find that engagement between Saudis and American visitors enriches both cultures, and builds understanding and friendship between us. We are collaborating with Saudi institutions to bring even more cultural programs soon: For example, we are hosting more musical performers in the coming months, a team of specialists who will work with Saudi experts on the protection of antiquities, and English teachers who will conduct workshops at several schools. We are also looking forward to working with the Abha Chamber of Commerce on the US-Abha Cultural Festival this fall.
These people-to-people contacts between the US and Saudi Arabia further strengthen the decades-long bond between our two countries. My colleagues and I look forward to another productive year supporting artistic and cultural collaboration between Saudis and Americans. Sharing our experiences and aspirations through the lens of our own traditions enriches us all.?