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Saudi Arabian Days 2005
Heaton Park, Manchester

After the Saudi Ambassador to the United Kingdom, HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal, gave his closing and admittedly very good speech (he thanked his wife, which really won over the crowd), he joined a throng of Arab men who formed a long line a short distance from the stage.

The drumming and chanting started up once more and the men, dressed in array of splendid traditional attire and holding a huge Saudi flag, shuffled in unison through the smiling crowds and onto the stage.

Some of the men then formed lines and swayed together from side to side, with ceremonial swords proudly held aloft. Others danced in a circle carrying small drums with extravagant tassels. Every now and again individual performers jumped into the middle and became the focus of attention. Thoroughly entertaining stuff.

One of the nicest things about the event was the level of respect and very social behaviour inside the arena. At times it was just like being back in the Middle East; the streams of Arabic, the flowing robes, the wafts of Arabian perfumes and the scorching sun.

Yes, there were plenty of noisy and excited kids and even the occasional bout of tired tears. But it was wonderful to see families together, all having fun, and not giving the impression the group outing was akin to the death sentence

There was no hint of trouble or anything that could be said to have spoiled the day; how nice it was to go somewhere in Manchester and not have to suffer loud tracksuit wearing youths spitting, swearing and generally making life uncomfortable for everyone else.

With Saudi Arabia being a Muslim country, there was naturally no alcohol to be had at this event. But this didn't stop spirits from being high and the young Arab men taking part in the dancing were bursting with smiles, laughter and energy.

As a young white British male, I was completely outnumbered by people from very different backgrounds and cultures. And yet I felt thoroughly welcome, relaxed and at ease, walking around with a cup of refreshing sweet tea, which was being dished up free of charge at one of the stands.

Having lived in the Middle East, read a lot about Saudi Arabia and heard a fair few stories about what goes on there, there is a lot that I don't like about the country.

But Saudi Arabian Days 2005 proved to be a very positive experience for me. It has made me willing to look again at the country and at least consider the information that appears in publications aimed at Western audiences, such as 'Saudi Arabia and Human Rights : Some Clarifications', which was on offer to everyone as they grabbed their goody bags and meandered their way out of the arena, through Heaton Park and towards home.

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Copyright 2005. For syndication rights, please email.

Saudi Arabian Days 2005 was held at Heaton Park in Manchester
from July 13 to July 17.

For more information on the event see

Click here to see some photographs
from the final day of the event

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