It is not every day that a Manhattan doctor, raised in the Bronx, is invited to take part in a cultural dance in Saudi Arabia. In February of this year, that’s exactly where I found myself and my teenage daughter. I was invited by His Excellency Sheik Abdul Moshin Al-Tuwaijri to speak at the National Guard Health Affairs, King Abdulaziz Medical City, King Fahad Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. At the same time, we were able to attend the Janadriyah Festival and dance in one of its celebrations.
The Janadriyah National Heritage and Culture Festival takes place near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Started in 1985, the festival showcases the cultural heritage of the various regions of Saudi Arabia and neighboring Gulf countries. It allowed us to experience traditions, culture and food from different regions. It allows visitors to better understand the people and its traditions. I’m dancing here with the celebrants and a celebrity too- Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad.
It wasn’t my first trip to Saudi Arabia and I could expand on the topic of liver transplantation and what I was there to teach. The state of the art hospital and architecture and skyline are also impressive. However, it is the people that we met and the conversations that we had which were the most meaningful to me. It was also the first time I was able to share it with my teenage daughter. Many people enthusiastically welcomed us into their homes to discuss Saudi Arabian culture. Visiting and socializing in one’s home does make a difference and we found the people we met extraordinary, kind and genial.
Dare I compare our experience in Saudi Arabia to the Bronx I knew as a young boy? I have to admit that the people and close bonds of neighbors have similarities. I am so grateful that liver transplantation has allowed me to open my eyes to other cultures and parts of this world. It was a true joy to share this with my daughter. I know she will take this experience with her as she prepares for her own future, hopefully with the same open spirit.