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Saudi National Day Celebrations: People highlight their Saudi identity and nationalism, Jeddah's South Indian community organizes musical evening

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By Rohail A. Khan

Jeddah: Saudi Arabia’s National Day “Youm Al-Watani” is celebrated every year on 23rd September to commemorate unification of the Kingdom by its founder, King Abdulaziz Al-Saud.

Growing public exuberance on National Day underscores recent changes in the Saudi society, notably the show of “Saudi Identity and Nationalism” by Kingdom's youth. Another important aspect is the side-by-side participation of expatriates, adding a unique flavour of solidarity and excitement to the festivities.

This week the 83rd Saudi National Day celebrationsstarted off with pompuous joy on the eve of 22nd September, expected to continue the entire week. Notable events include Symposia, Cultural Shows, Public Celebrations, Food Carnivals and Fire-cracker Shows.

Like every year, celebrations across Jeddah, Dammam, Al-Khobar, and Riyadh (Kingdom’s capital) are dominated by the youth. Like every year, I am equally excited.

Malls, corniche, public parks, main streets and broadways are inundated with people from all walk of life. Events usually start at the sunset and gradually pick up “heat and speed” from 9 pm till the wee wee hours.

Saudi green flags of all sizes can be seen every where. Not only the cars but “faces are also painted green”. Cute toddlers and youngsters are wearing special costumes, green T-shirts, wigs, masks, and hats - jumping around waving the flags.

This year, guys wearing traditional white thob are facing tough competition from the guys wearing boot-legged jeans and funky shirts. Gals, clad with black abayas, are participating with equal zest and zeal - waving the flags and giggling with family members.

Let me be straight and honest. This year’s “hot item” is certainly the “Green Bandana” which has gained instant popularity among the youth and the adults. Street hawkers are selling thousands of these bandanas every hour - like hot cakes. I wish I had this novel idea. It would have been so nice to mint tons of money selling these bandanas and fulfil my dream of early retirement !

In Jeddah, this week’s favourite food has turned out to be the handy Al-Baik – broasted chicken.

Favourite drink turned out to be Cade’ – pink and blue coloured fuzzy beverages. Favourite dessert of the week, of course, is the Baskin Robbins.

I invited myself to my Saudi friends’ home for a traditional Hijazi dinner. Together we relished every bite of “Mandi and Kunafa”. The sumptuous treat was diligently followed by apple-flavoured hubbly bubbly and green tea. I really felt like an Arab Prince ready to conquer the world.

Unlike last year, this time we saw frequent shows of ‘’fire crackers’’ along Jeddah’s 40 kilometre long sea stripe - Corniche. Amid city-wide celebrations, driving by the colourful and breezy Corniche is an experience I could never miss. Portions of corniche were packed with families enjoying themselves like one does in a carnival.

Tahlia Street - Jeddah’s heart line - seemed over flowing with flashy cars and expensive four-by-fours. It was an adorable sight to observe Fathers strolling on the pavements with cribs, while the abaya-clad wives were busy taking snaps from their fancy smart phones.

The traffic police was more agile and vigilant. For many lazy drivers, double-parking seemed impossible. Watching a bunch of Saudi machos riding on their Harley Davidsons, reminded me of my macho days back in California.

Like every year, my favourite activity was watching the joyful Saudi youth dancing on the tune of folk songs in the middle of the roads !

If one is in Saudi Arabia during the National Day, I strongly recommend not to miss this enriching experience. Let me wrap up now. I need to rise early morning to go scuba diving and celebrate the Youm Al-Watani under the Red Sea with my Saudi friends.

Musical Evening in honor of Muhammad Rafi

Jeddah’s South Indian community fervently celebrated the Youm Al-Watany on 23rd September at a local banquet hall.

It was a musical evening organized by OSAEMEA as a tribute in honour of sub-continent’s great singer Late Muhammad Rafi. OSAEMEA is a leading social welfare organization working since more than a decade to provide financial assistance to needy students in South India.

The charity-cum-musical event was inaugurated by Chief Guest, Mr. Rohail Khan, financial adviser and social worker. Mr. Khan offered felicitations to the Saudi nation on Kingdom’s 83rd National Day. He highlighted the rich heritage and socio-cultural traditions of Saudi Arabia and the role of expatriates towards Kingdom’s development.

Over 300 multi-cultural guests, attired in colourful traditional dresses, collectively prayed for the health and longevity of the Custodian of Two Holy Mosques His Majesty King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.

OSAEMEA’s President Mr. Basheer Thottiyan, General Secretary Mr. Nasir and renowned socialite Mr. Mohan Balan addressed the audience and described OSAEMEA’s historic contribution and social welfare activities.

The hall was filled with standing ovation when the two Guests of Honour, leading Saudi businessmen, Mr. Iqbal Al-Ansari and Mr. Qasim Saab awarded scholarships to five needy students. Mr. Rohail Khan stressed that affluent people should come forward and wholeheartedly participate in such noble causes. He warmly thanked the event’s sponsors and particularly the local philanthropists for their generosity.

The five-hour “Muhammad Rafi Night” turned out to be melodious and entertaining. The 300 guest were treated to four hours of quality musical and cultural show. Forty solo and duet songs of Musical Maestro Muhammad Rafi were aptly rendered by local artists.

Jamal Pasha, lead singer, thrilled the audience with his rich voice and musical prowess.

Other male singers Abdul Haq, Mashood, Nohu and Amjad impressed the audience with quality performances. Female artists Rehna and Sangeeta surprised everyone with their versatile talent.

Music aficionados swayed to the mood and tempo of the music as the evening progressed and widely appreciated the quality and content of this unique event.

The sumptuous dinner, consisting of spicy dishes and desserts, made it the “most memorable evening of September 2013”.

[Rohail A. Khan, a Canadian-Pakistani with strong parental roots in India as well, is a Senior Banker and CFO based at Jeddah. He is also Chairman, Urdu Academy International (UAI), Washington, D.C. He can be contacted at rohailkhan00@gmail.com]
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