The University Student Union ballrooms were enriched with the vibrant sights, sounds and smells of Saudi Arabia on Monday.
The USU ballrooms were filled with Saudi Arabian music, pictures of Saudi Arabian lands projected on a screen and the smells of authentic Saudi Arabian foods.
The CSULB Saudi Students Organization (SSO), a newly formed organization on campus, held the event for the first time in the university’s history to honor Saudi National Celebration Day as well as the organization’s opening day.
More than 200 guests of all ages, including children and grandparents, attended the event, as well as some attendees wearing traditional Saudi Arabian clothing.
Saudi National Celebration Day marks the 83rd anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s unification by King Abdulaziz, according to Ahmed Khayyat, a graduate student in computer engineering and president of SSO.
All were welcome to join the event and celebrate Saudi culture by tasting authentic Arabic foods, drinking genuine Arabic coffee and viewing a documentary on Saudi Arabian culture.
At the entrance to the ballrooms, SSO members greeted guests with traditional Arabic coffee, raffle tickets and treats.
Yaser Almahdi, a freshman international student and SSO volunteer, greeted guests at the door with free name translations into Arabic language.
The food offered at the event included hummus, tabula, sweet dates and lamb kabsa, which was specially ordered for the event, Khayyat said.
The event included free photo booth sessions that allowed attendees to take pictures while wearing traditional Saudi dress.
“This is the best way to introduce our culture to the community,” Khayyat said. “Many people don’t have a good understanding of Saudi Arabia.”
SSO members said common misconceptions about Saudi Arabian culture led them to hosting the event, the first of its kind on campus.
“I am very happy to celebrate with my brothers,” Abdullah Salem, a freshman international student, said.
The event was funded directly from the pockets of SSO members, according to Suhayb Najjar, a sophomore international student and treasurer of SSO.
“I am excited and somehow nervous,” Najjar said. “We want it to be a really good event.”
Attendees at the event said they were excited to experience Saudi Arabian culture firsthand.
“I am looking forward to the music, food and learn more about the heritage and culture,” Merhawit Tweolde, a junior, said.
The members of the SSO said they hope to eliminate misconceptions about Saudi Arabia, culture by holding events like Monday’s.
“We hope people learn about our culture because many people have a bad idea about it,” said Ahmed Zainuddin, a freshman international student and SSO social activity manager. “We want to show how we celebrate.”