Our driver Bandar picked us up from the hotel, which gave us our first real glimpse of Jeddah. The shops are clustered by specialty, so on one block it was nothing but carpets, the next salon supplies, then toys, then auto parts, etc. The competition must be fierce. Passing through the honey district, Bandar explained that the best honey comes from Yemen, his home country.
We spent the day at Effat, in its clean, modern campus that used to house the Dar-al-Hanan school, Princess Loulwa's first foray into female education. President Haifa Jamal Allail, Lisa Zuppe, and their colleagues were delightful in introducing us to the institution.
If it was an adjustment being a man at a US women's college, it was a whole other level at Effat. While there are some male faculty, most of the students presume (safely) that it's an all-female zone, so often go around uncovered. As we walked around, our chaperones would call ahead or dash around the corner to alert people that there were men in the vicinity. More exciting was when we would stumble upon unsuspecting students or they upon us, and they would scurry off or discretely hide if they weren't covered. In the architecture building I turned to see a poster board with legs crossing the hallway in front of me. It was an unusual feeling.
The highlight of the day was joining in on the selection of the annual Queen Effat Award for Citizenship, for which about 20 of their best students gave presentations to a full room of college leadership. We had to evaluate each one according to a rubric they provided. I couldn't imagine a more illuminating glimpse of the students and their culture, interests, and motivation. All of them presented in English, which is their second, third, fourth, or even fifth language. One young woman was so intimidated that she nearly passed out. Others owned the room.
Here's Don, hard at it along with the others on the tribunal (across from my anti-food-coma beverages: Coke in Arabic and a thimble of Arabian Coffee).
We're now back at the hotel doing some prep work for the actual consulting we've been brought here to do. The sun has just set over the port, and the call to prayer is reverberating through the city. We each have a laptop out and take turns sitting in the doorway of Don's room, which seems to be the only way to get data from the wireless network at the Red Sea Palace. It's one of life's distinctive moments.