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Saudi Arabia Cultural Tour

We hope to be able to provide family and friends of those participating in the Saudi Arabia Tour with occasional updates on the team's experiences.  We encourage you to check this page for updates which will be posted as we hear from the team.

Update #5

Update #4

"This morning we had the pleasure of meeting our host, Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, who personally welcomed us to the Kingdom.  We also visited the international Naif Arab University for Security Sciences, where we learned about Saudi efforts to promote "Human Security" -- security studies that focus on the interrelationship of security and environmental, economic, food issues, etc. -- as well as more traditional security studies.  Back at the King Faisal Center, Professor Sanneh delivered a talk on "Muslim Cartographers and the Moral Imagination" to an audience of scholars and journalists from across the Arab world, after which we enjoyed a delicious lunch of Saudi delicacies.  On the whole, we got the royal treatment of Saudi hospitality, which was extremely welcoming.  In the afternoon we visited both a traditional market and a modern westernized shopping mall.  What a day! " 

Update #3

From one of the participants....

"The itinerary not only came together but exceeded our expectations thus far.  Today we were treated with a behind-the-scenes access tour of the original manuscripts collection and restoration areas of the Al-Faisal Foundation's library of Islamic Studies.  It was sort of like seeing a combination of the inner workings and private access tours of Beineke and Sterling Libraries at Yale.  It was awesome.

We also were taken to the archaeological site of Addiriya, which is a new project of the Saudi government to display its heritage.  Addiriya was the site from which the First Saudi State was formed under Muhammed Ibn Saud.  I must say, it was a treasure to see, considering that it was the equivalent of "historic Jamestown" (Eric Tipler was the one who made this comparison).  The archaeologist who is working on the project was so passionate about what he was doing that it was infectious.  It was truly special to be able to see him talk about the history of his country.  This site will soon be transformed (by 2013) into a tourist site, so we were able to see a sort of preview ahead of time.

Then we went to see "the palace," which turned out to be the palace location of one of the kings before it was overthrown by another king (I'm forgetting names, but I can find out).  The structure and the history were, in the words of Dr. Sanneh, "What one associates with Lawrence of Arabia."

If that wasn't enough, we then went to the equivalent of a museum that could be compared to the American Museum of Natural History in NYC and the National Museum of American History in DC rolled into one (again, Eric Tipler made this comparison).  The section on science was one that blew me away.  Imagine a museum of natural science that integrated the Qur'an with the findings of modern science to help average Muslims better integrate their faith into their education and work in the world.  That's what this section was like.  From an intellectual standpoint, it was a tour de force of the intellectual power of the Muslim world, which the West has historically overlooked.  I know of no such museum that does this with Christianity.  At this museum, I was able to engage in a discussion about a number of topics with one of the Saudi's who had spent three years in the US, with the discussion ranging from Western-Middle Eastern relations to science-religion.  The conversation was truly a gift and was very enlightening to hear the perspective of a Saudi.

Lastly, I must say that the hospitality of the Saudi's is almost beyond description.  We are probably all going to come back 20 lbs. heavier.  Every meal is a feast, and the fresh juices that they have available are phenomenal.  This is truly an amazing opportunity, and I am very grateful for it."

Update #2

The team has arrived in Saudi and we recieved this from a student....  "We've reached Riyadh safely and are staying at the Hotel Al Khozama. My understanding is that we will be in Riyadh the entire week. The itinerary is still shaping up, and they asked up this morning for input about what we might like to do.  We have internet here in the hotel that I think we will be staying at all week, so we should be able to keep in touch! "

Update #1

The team will be leaving the parking lot of Yale Divinity School at 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning for their two hour commute to JFK airport, New York.  They will board their direct flight at 2:00 and from the time they step foot on the plane, they will begin enjoying Saudi Arabian hospitality.  They will be greeted upon arrival by representatives of the King Faisal Center and taken directly to their accommodations.  More to follow....


If you are on Twitter, you can follow one student's tweets at MichelleELewis



The Saudi Arabian government, represented by Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, has extended an invitation to Professor Lamin Sanneh and students of Yale University to participate in an unprecedented cultural tour of the kingdom.

A note regarding our Host:  Prince Turki Al Faisal is the former Director General of Saudi Arabia's Al Mukhabarat Al A'amah (the Saudi’s highest intelligence office), the Kingdom's former ambassador to the United Kingdom and Ireland, and served as Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States from July 2005 until December 2006.


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