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Saudi+Arabia%3A+Anas+al+Selmi+is+a+SLU+student+who+finds+parallels+between+his+distant+hometown+and+the+place+that+he+now+calls+home.+Photo+courtesy+of+Anas+al+Selmi
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Saudi Arabia: Anas al Selmi is a SLU student who finds parallels between his distant hometown and the place that he now calls home. Photo courtesy of Anas al Selmi

Saudi Arabia: Anas al Selmi is a SLU student who finds parallels between his distant hometown and the place that he now calls home. Photo courtesy of Anas al Selmi

Saudi Arabia: Anas al Selmi is a SLU student who finds parallels between his distant hometown and the place that he now calls home. Photo courtesy of Anas al Selmi

Saudi Arabia: Anas al Selmi is a SLU student who finds parallels between his distant hometown and the place that he now calls home. Photo courtesy of Anas al Selmi

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Saudi Arabia: Anas al Selmi is a SLU student who finds parallels between his distant hometown and the place that he now calls home. Photo courtesy of Anas al Selmi

Saudi Arabia: Anas al Selmi is a SLU student who finds parallels between his distant hometown and the place that he now calls home. Photo courtesy of Anas al Selmi

Saudi Arabia in St. Louis

Anas al Selmi is a student here at SLU; however, he is originally from a place many of us have only heard about: Saudi Arabia.  More specifically, he is from Jeddah, one of the country’s biggest cities.

Jeddah is the closest city to Mecca, the holiest city for the Muslim faith and the destination of Muslims during the Hajj, a religious pilgrimage. Due to the proximity to the hub of the Islamic world, Jeddah has a very diverse ethnic makeup, according to al-Selmi.  Jeddah is also the largest port on the Red Sea.  The city’s proximity to the sea makes it a hotspot for tourists.  There are many luxury resorts in Jeddah and plans to construct one of the largest business districts in the Middle East on its King Abdullah Street.  The project is a result of the economic boom in Jeddah.

“For fun, I used to hang out with my friends near the Red Sea,” said al-Selmi, when asked about things to do in Jeddah.  “Soccer was a huge part of my free time, but it’s not the same in St. Louis because baseball is the main sport in the city [here].”

Jeddah has the oldest sports clubs in Saudi Arabia, including the soccer team Ittihad FC, nicknamed the Tigers, which was formed in 1929.

If one is not interested in sports, a stroll down the impressive shopping district along Tahlia Street, also known as Prince Mohammad bin Abdul Aziz Road, will give tourists a feeling of walking down a Middle Eastern Navy Pier, with its rich assortment of designer stores and restaurants.

When asked what he missed most from Saudi Arabia, al-Selmi said he missed his language.  “As a foreign student, I miss speaking my language and being with my family in warm weather … I think I share that feeling with all international students.”

Jeddah speaks a distinct dialect of Arabic called Hejazi Arabic.  Saudis often consider this dialect the most recognizable accent in the country.

When asked about his opinion on St. Louis, al-Selmi said that he did not consider it a big city, but that it has a “unique style” and has played an important part in the history of America.

Jeddah’s population is roughly 3.5 million, around 500,000 more than that of Greater St. Louis.  The diversity of food offered in Jeddah is also comparable to that of St. Louis.  There are many ethnic groups in St. Louis that offer diverse food options in areas like The Hill, The Grove and the Central West End.

While in America, al-Selmi has the ability to celebrate his “other” birthday.  In Saudi Arabia, the calendar is based on the lunar cycle unlike our solar-based calendar.  On his American birthday, al-Selmi invited this reporter to accompany him and a friend to an Afghani restaurant in The Grove called Sameem.

Al-Selmi said that the food was very authentic and similar to the food he sees in Jeddah, although the Afghani food was a little spicier.  Those interested in trying Middle Eastern cuisine have many options including The Vine, Ranoush and the Central Cafe and Bakery.

Al-Selmi felt homesick when he first came to St. Louis, as do many international students far from home.  He was comparing every detail of the city of St. Louis with his hometown.  “However, after spending a year and a half here, I adapted to the routine,” said al-Selmi, “and it has become a part of me.”