This semester has been a little low on cultural outings since I've been so busy. It was nice to "get out" a little by staying on campus and hanging out with hundreds of GCC + Yemen nationals for a while. I was struck by some impressions.
1. The abaya and kandura are soooooo normal to me now. In fact, Jeremy and I are both getting quite good at being able to distinguish Saudi styles from Emirati styles from Omani styles from Yemeni styles, etc.
2. Another thing that is normal to me now: male students standing to greet each other solemnly, leaning close into each other's faces to touch noses or kiss cheeks. That was going on all over the place last night and it's actually really neat to see.
3. It was fascinating to see the Khalijis all hanging out together. They were at once more alike and yet more distinct than I've ever seen them. Let me explain. When you put a bunch of Arabs in a room together, you tend to group the Khalijis into one unit, at least in your mind. They might even group themselves together. They are alike, in that they are all from the Gulf. But it's not long before differences become apparent - in behavior, in dress, in beliefs, etc. (And don't ever get a Saudi started on the differences between east/west coast and central areas in that country alone...except do, because it's totally interesting.) Last night, those hundreds of students were a cohesive group because, well, it was Khaliji Night. But one of the major activities that was going on when Jeremy and I were there was a game in which the nationals of each GCC country set themselves apart, by way of calling out differences in each other's dialects. I'd never seen anything quite like it before, not in all the time we've been here.
I continue to be amazed at how my understanding of the Arabian Gulf changes over time. I find myself so energized by the cultural diversity here - I learn or experience or see or try something new every day just by stepping out my front door.