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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - NEW DELHI: Saudi Arabia’s scouts are showcasing their history and traditions to peers from all over the world as they are taking part, for the first time, in India’s Republic Day camp.
Girls and boys from the Saudi Arabian Scouts Association arrived in New Delhi last week to join the annual camp, which is taking place alongside official events commemorating the day on which India’s constitution came into effect on Jan. 26, 1950.
The two-week camp, which this year sees delegations of scouts representing more than 20 countries, is organized by the National Cadet Corps — the youth wing of India’s armed forces — to encourage exchanges between young people from across the world.
While they explore historical cities and learn about their host’s traditions, they also present their own cultures and engage with other participants.
“It’s a pleasure to meet them all and know their cultures and have lots of conversations with them,” Lana Al-Wehaibi, one of the three girl scouts in the 12-member Saudi Arabia delegation, told Arab News, as they were preparing to present their program in New Delhi.
“We visited Agra and Jaipur and Delhi. And in Agra we could go to the Taj Mahal. For me, it’s the best place.”
The iconic white-marble mausoleum in northern India is one of the country’s most famous monuments of Muslim architectural heritage.
It was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1648 in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
“The story of Taj Mahal is incredible,” Al-Wehaibi said. “It’s a beautiful country, beautiful people, and a pleasure for us to meet them.”
The Saudi delegation has already presented some of their traditions to their peers, who received them with enthusiasm.
“When they saw us wearing our outfits — as you know, thobe, shemagh — they were impressed, came to us to take pictures. They were happy,” said Faisal Al-Ruwaili, another member of the Saudi Arabian Scouts Association.
“We have good communication with all the countries and that’s good.”
But he was happy, especially about the communication with the Indian side, which reflected how much relations between the two countries have grown lately.
“They care to make us comfortable on this visit,” he said. “If this program is coming again next year, I will be a participant.”
For Mashal Al-Abdulaaly, one of the group’s leaders, the participation of women scouts in the Saudi Arabia delegation was proof of the Kingdom’s empowerment policies, which her peers could see directly.
“Whatever Saudi Arabia is saying about empowering women, is actually here, in person,” she told Arab News.
“We are here, we exist, and we are looking forward to shaping the future.”
She enjoyed being in India, especially — as a vegetarian — its cuisine, but what mattered most was for her the exchanges, interactions, and learning more about others.
“We’re really thankful for this opportunity,” she said.
“To be part of something international, to see other nations, to interact with them, to learn more about their cultures, has been really rewarding.”
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