The American woman who crossed cultural barriers in Saudi Arabia decades ago

Crawford concluded her experience stating that if foreign wives who built a wall between them and the society had learnt the Arabic language, they would have learnt all about the beautiful Saudi people

Around four decades ago, American daily The Ames Tribune published a story entitled “She crossed cultural barriers in Saudi Arabia” to narrate the story of an American woman named Claudia Crawford who had to move to Riyadh with her husband.

The daily also published a photo of Crawford as she sat with antique sellers in Suk Al Zell in Riyadh. The photo was published on May 31, 1974.

The piece featured excerpts from Crawford’s dairies and explained that she moved to Riyadh after her husband was appointed as a bank manager.

In her dairies, Crawford said she was worried of moving into a place that imposes strict restraints on women, adding however that she was excited to know more about Islam and about Arabs’ culture and habits.

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She said that after 18 months of living in Riyadh, she realized that her idea about Saudi Arabia was wrong and that the negative image she had of the country was due to the wives of foreign men who lived in Riyadh for years without bothering to get out of their compounds to meet the society outside it.

Learning Arabic and teaching

Crawford began to learn Arabic once she arrived in Riyadh and she also taught at a foreign school. When she realized that the school curricula did not include any information about Saudi Arabia, she tasked her 230 students of writing a two-page-paper about any topic that pertains to Saudi Arabia.

According to Crawford, students had to seek the help of their father’s Saudi colleagues to finish the assignment. This was the first time they spoke with Saudis about history, culture, religion, habits and traditions. She added that two students discussed their paper every week and parents were allowed to attend to benefit from the information shared.

Crawford also said that she began to go out from the compound every week after a year and half of learning Arabic. At this point, she could read newspapers and have conversations with taxi drivers and grocery sellers. This is how she practiced Arabic conversation.

She added that she made friends with Saudi people in Suk Al Zell, including Suleiman, an antique seller, and his wife and children who were very thrilled that foreigners, like her, were interested in the Arabic language.

Crawford concluded her experience stating that if foreign wives who built a wall between them and the society had learnt the Arabic language, they would have learnt all about the beautiful Saudi people.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:55 - GMT 06:55
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