Lecture, slide show on Saudi Arabia today | AspenTimes.com

Lecture, slide show on Saudi Arabia today

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

It is easy for Didi Cutler to see how the desert of Saudi Arabia has influenced the people who live there.

As a photographer and the wife of Walter Cutler, a two-time ambassador to Saudi Arabia in the 1980s, she was able to spend a lot of time in the country’s deserts and with its people.

“It is my thesis that much of the good in the Arab world has come from the desert,” Cutler said. “Bravery, strength of character, hospitality, closeness of family, all these good things have come by living in the desert.”

And Cutler said even Saudis who live in modern cities still try to keep a strong connection to the desert.

“They love their time in the desert,” she said. “Some, next to their beautiful villas will have a tent next door, and they spend time entertaining in their tent.”

Cutler will speak this afternoon at the Aspen Institute at a free lecture. At 4, an exhibit of photos from her new book, “Mysteries of the Desert, A View of Saudi Arabia,” will open at the Institute’s Adelson Gallery in Paepcke Auditorium.

Her photographs have appeared in such publications as Architectural Digest, Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The London Times, as well as in periodicals throughout the Middle East.

At 4:30 p.m., Cutler will speak in Paepcke Auditorium on “To Veil or Not to Veil – The Role of Women in the Middle East.” Afterward, she will be signing books and photos.

Her book on Saudi Arabia was published on September 10. And the events of September 11 spurred many people to purchase the book in a sudden quest to learn more about the region and its people.

“There is a big gap in understanding,” Cutler said. “Americans don’t know enough really about the Saudi culture. And there are those in Saudi Arabia who don’t know some of the big things about America.”

One thing that Cutler now knows for sure about Saudi Arabia is that the desert is an alluring, spectacular place.

“I was so blown away by the desert,” Cutler said. “It’s not all bleak. It is very, very beautiful. The colors are amazing.”

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