Cultural exchange between Saudis and Māori

By Wepiha Te Kanawa

A contingent of dignitaries and diplomats representing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were welcomed on to a Waikato marae this weekend, in the hopes of creating ties between the Māori and Saudi people.

The home people of Paaraawera Marae in Te Awamutu were treated to a display of sword dancing and fine cotton dress in a cultural exchange that began on Saturday.

The NZ-based group of Saudi were welcomed by famous sea voyager Hoturoa Kerr, who said the similarities between the two cultures were remarkable, “They picked up the hongi easily because it's a custom of their own and so is standing to do a whai kōrero, singing, socialising, it's was second nature to them.”

Saudi representative Khaodie Aosubie said they were overwhelmed by the hospitality of the locals, “What I was feeling today is people loving me, caring about us, it's like I'm at home.”

In return the Saudi people shared a bit of their own culture, laying out traditional carpets and lighting portable hearths to celebrate the union.

The home people and their guests have a special hunting trip planned later today where all will get the opportunity to feast on traditional Saudi cuisine.