Saudi Arabia/Japan: Japanese High Tea in the Land of Sweet Tea and Bibles

When I was in Saudi Arabia I found it easy and wonderful to meet individuals from all differing parts of the world.  A Saudi friend and I created our own grassroots group which we dubbed the “Women’s Exchange Experience.”  We invited our expatriate and Saudi friends (female) through word of mouth or email to plan on getting together once a month as a group.  The gathering had a planned agenda and ending time.  The first 20 minutes or so would be dedicated to introductions and networking since most women did not know each other.  Once the majority of guests had arrived, either my friend or I would give the formal introduction of welcome and share the agenda of the evening.  Our agenda’s would vary from discussing topics of interest between Saudis and expatriates or could even be demonstrations of food and culture from one of the Saudi woman or expatriate woman.  What was important is that the Women’s Exchange Experience brought together women who would otherwise not have met each other.  It broke barriers between Saudi women and expatriate women.

It’s easy for expatriates to routinely meet other expats or for Saudis to meet other Saudis.  But it had not been easy for expatriate and Saudi women to have opportunities to socialize and get to know one another.


(above photo is American Bedu with two of her expatriate friends at her home in Charlotte, NC., dressed for the Japanese High Tea)


I’m in Charlotte, NC now as I continue the battle with cancer.  I am living in the Bible belt of the Southern United States!  Initially as I was settling in I thought that perhaps my hey days of getting to know individuals from differing cultures and customs might be over but thankfully I was very mistaken.  This blog has continued to bring me close to people from all over the world and share experiences, culture and customs.


Thanks to my blog, I’ve been brought together with some amazing and well-traveled American women who have each spent significant time in the GCC, to include Saudi Arabia.  They are in the same area as me and they also miss the opportunities to reminiscence about the “expat days.”  We got together a few weeks ago and you could say had our own small version of “WEE.”  One of the dear ladies who is soon departing to Riyadh to join her husband who is already working there brought her Japanese neighbors with her to the gathering at my home.

(above photo is our Master at Japanese High Tea.  She is explaining about how to prepare and serve the tea.)


One of the Japanese ladies is a Master at preparing and serving a Japanese High Tea.  We three American expatriate ladies were treated to such a unique and lovely experience where from my living room in Charlotte we transposed ourselves as if we were VIP guests in a five star hotel in Tokyo and presented with a high tea.  I would try to explain the step by step process but I’m afraid I would mangle it.  I learned that each guest’s tea is prepared and served individually in a bowl with meaning and beauty.  There is a protocol followed when receiving and accepting the bowl as well as how one drinks the tea in a few short gulps.  After drinking the tea the bowl is carefully turned and admired before giving it back to the Master.  It was an honor to have this experience.  Through this experience not only were my horizons broadened but I now have some lovely Japanese friends here within the Southern tranquility of Charlotte, North Carolina.


I am hopeful that at some point I may get to know some Saudis who are in the Charlotte area too.

(in the photo above American Bedu is given the opportunity to prepare a bowl of tea for the Master!)

 (American Bedu and her expatriate friends enjoying themselves in Charlotte, NC)

23 Responses

  1. Absolutely beautiful idea, home, pictures, ladies! Do you ever drink sweet ICED tea? That’s rather famous in the South especially when it’s hot! 😉

    Did these ladies live nearby or did they travel far to meet you? It’s great how people can connect through the internet! I hope you share more of your WEE events if you have them. I would imagine some Saudis and other Arabs who are studying at area universities would welcome a chance to speak with someone who had lived in their area of the world. I wonder if there is some way you could get in touch with a group like that … if that would interest you.

  2. My daughter loves anything Japanese and took four years of it in High School. She has a couple of learning disabilities and a teacher advised not taking it however I knew the culture was something she really loved and I know kids focus more when the subject is interesting (or they have a passion about).She made straight A’s. Also, she went to Japan on her Senior trip and was able to participate in a Japanese tea ceremony. She also has a kimono that she bought over there and the ones shown here are beautiful.

  3. The Japanese are either absolutely crazy or 101% proper and polite, or both . I say that in the nice sense. Sure they have issues, but don’t we all?

    I stand in admiration for their conduct after the recent tragedy. Few places in the world would have acted with so much dignity, solidarity and calm.

    Oh yes, I just ran across a fun video I will share. Remember the JK Wedding Dance video on YouTube a few months ago that went wild? Well 66 million views is not bad.

    Here it is:

    Well, now there is the JK Divorce video:

    A joke, but some humor there.

  4. Oh Carol, this looks so lovely! All those beautiful kimonos too!
    You are so lucky in being able to have a real Japanese tea with a real master!
    Learning the Japanese tea ceremony is something I have wanted to do for years 🙂

  5. It was really a treat to feel like we all took a trip to Japan. One of the ladies brought a large case which held kimonos for everyone. In addition to the tea, she also served us the traditional cookies that are offered with the tea too.

    It is funny that in the land of sweet (cold) tea we were all sipping in our own little woman made oasis having Japanese high tea which is a special powdered green (hot) tea.

    I would enjoy a lot getting the chance to know Saudis and other Arabs in my area. I certainly have all the fixins (khawa, chai, oud burner) to put on some Arab (Saudi) hospitality. I still enjoy Saudi style cooking.

  6. Who tied on the Obi’s? I can’t see anybody from the back!

  7. The Japanese women tied them on. All of us had the big bow and “bustle.” I found getting in to a kimono properly with the obi tied on from yards and yards of material was more challenging than getting in to a sari!

  8. It is indeed challenging putting a kimono on. I had to help my daughter into hers. She has an instructional booklet on how to put them on.

  9. The kimono (robe) is easy but it is an art to wrap the fabric around the waist and make the ribbon/bustle.

  10. You like beautiful, Carol!!! Anti jameela!

  11. marianna, putting on a kimono is already an art form! So well done!
    Even Japanese women hire a professional kimono dresser when they dress up in a kimono for formal occasions.

  12. shukran aleki, Grace!

  13. You look fantastic Carol!!

  14. Why thank you Miss Turtle!

  15. you look great carol.. v nice pics and looks like you gals had plenty of fun

  16. it was truly a special time. Now I’d like to get some Saudis and North Carolinian’s together to share traditions of each others culture!

  17. Oh, I’d like to read about that! 🙂

  18. Carol – i love the vases that you have lined up ont op of your kitchen cabinets, looks v v elegant.

  19. Yes, how about a tour around your apartment?
    And where were the cats all this time?

  20. Woehahahahahaaaa!!!!
    And I scrolled up and I did see half a cat!

  21. And deeper scrutiny of the photographic evidence revealed the other 1/4 cat!
    This answers my question!

  22. And using a magnifier if found another hidden part of a cat keeping tabs on the tea :mrgreen:

  23. LOL!!!! Yes, Tripod and Saheba made sure they were in the pics! Good eye, Aafke!

    Thank you, Radha! The smaller 3 vases in between the yellow ones are from India.

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