Saudi Graduates for the Wall Street Journal

 I had the great pleasure to photograph a graduation celebration for Saudi Arabian nationals. They participated in the nation’s American foreign study program, earning advanced degrees with the idea being they take their skills and knowledge back to their homeland to become the next generation of Saudi Arabia’s leaders.  I lived in Bahrain- Saudi Arabia’s island neighbor- for two years in the mid-90s, and this assignment made me nearly swoon with flashback after flashback.  I decided I really needed to get back to the Middle East, ASAP.  Read the article here.

The ceremony was hosted in a gigantic room at a gigantic hotel at National Harbor.  I must have walked 5 miles over the course of the assignment. Indoors.

There were very few thobes to be seen.  Besides graduation garb, it was mostly western business attire.  This one kid was a great standout though.

Friends and family.

There were a handful of women who covered their faces and one or two who wore no scarf at all and let their hair fly free, but most chose the middle ground with a rainbow sea of brightly colored headscarves.

This married couple (above and below images) was quite interesting.  They both went to St. Mary’s College where the wife received her M.S. in engineering and the husband got his M.P.A.  Their daughter was a little dynamo.

This scene was staged for a Saudi news station (that’s the anchor in center left, looking up and smiling) but it worked nicely for me.  Just have to make sure the caption is clear about the setup.  Yay ethics.

There was a job fair going on downstairs which many graduates attended.  In America, the women are more at liberty to mix and mingle with men, but these signs served as a reminder of the strict traditional ways back home.