One of the most important basic principles of Islam is good manners and respecting others. Those principles reflect the essence of being a good person.
While I was waiting at the airport in Jeddah I couldn’t help but notice how people were showing signs of extreme frustration due to the rudeness of some of the employees who work there.
They were uncivilized and unorganized when it came to the process of checking passports and letting people leave the departure lounge. Then just when I thought we were finally done and were boarding the bus that would take us to the airplane, an airport employee came rushing to tell everyone to get off the bus because the man who checked the passports was not an immigration officer. This was understandable, but why did that employee let us through knowing he was not supposed to? And where was the immigration officer?
The situation became chaotic and people became impatient and no one could blame them because the immigration officer was extremely rude and started threatening people that if they did not cooperate the trip would be delayed and the way he said it was not in a consequential way, it was in a threatening manner which upset everyone.
It was his fault for not being there in the first place and secondly, his colleague let us through, but the way he handled the situation overall was his biggest mistake. He should have been professional about it and offered an apology. The people who were there were customers and pleasing customers should be the first priority. Not to mention the fact that his behavior was a reflection on the culture and the country to everyone who was there.
Once we landed at Washington DC, I noticed the huge difference between the treatment we received at Jeddah International Airport and in the US. Customs officers and ground staff were welcoming and very friendly.
Throughout my trip everyone I dealt with was very friendly which made me wonder why I do not witness such great hospitality and good manners in my own country. I do not like to generalize, but I do believe that Saudi people become skeptical when a person is being nice to them and maybe even doubt that person’s intentions.
So we left the airport and settled into our hotel and I noticed the same friendly manner being displayed by all of the hotel staff. The next few days were spent exploring and getting to know the city which was new to me.
I noticed how friendly people were on the street. I was initially apprehensive about the country so that everything I saw and experienced caught me off guard.
For example, when I was walking down the street, I passed by an American man who saluted me with “Alsalamu alaikum”. I was able to tell he was not a Muslim because he was wearing a cross on his neck, yet he showed respect for my religion and built a friendly bridge between cultures just by saying those two words.
People around the world should show more effort in building cultural bridges between one another because knowledge of other cultures offers peace and more understanding without unconsciously reflecting what the media constantly portrays. I think we spend too much time and effort analyzing our differences and not enough time exploring our similarities. All cultures have some sort of similarities and if there aren’t any, I believe humanity is enough.– Esraa Al-Ghamdi is a Saudi poet. She can be reached at