By JEFFERSON L. SHERMAN, MAI, AI-GRS
Teaching AI courses in the Persian Gulf
BRIDGING THE GULF
became a learning experience
When I was asked by the Appraisal Institute to go to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to teach its “Basic Appraisal Principles” course in Jeddah this past October, I was
unsure. I had taught this class for more than 20 years in the U.S.,
but doing so abroad would be fundamentally different. And while
AI has been delivering its education to valuation professionals in
the Persian Gulf since March, this would be my first time.*
caused much internal discussion; I don’t speak
a word of Arabic, so I could only hear the chatter
and not participate in the debate. As you can
imagine, some of the lectures were a bit choppy.
At one point in the middle of a class, when
I was attempting to give the students some
perspective, I said, “We are in a totally new situation. You are just like guinea pigs.” I looked
at the interpreter as I said that and could see
a subtle shake of his head. He corrected my
statement, using the phrase “laboratory animals.” Not only are alcohol and tobacco banned
in the country, but pork is prohibited and any
notion of “pig” was inappropriate. My speech
pathologist wife, Pam, had warned me about
using idioms. Every day was a learning experience for both myself and my students.
After the second day of class, one of my stu-
dents asked me if I wanted to see Old Jeddah
(known as Al-Balad), and we spent an hour
walking through what used to be the city cen-
ter. Al-Balad is a deteriorating area, and I was
told that much of the ancient, decaying multi-
story housing was abandoned by its citizens
and is now occupied by expatriates from other
The situation in Saudi Arabia is not unlike what happened in the U.S.
during the last few years. Its banking system suffered significant losses and
some of the blame was attributed to faulty appraisals. (Does that sound
familiar?) As a result, the country, which is governed under the rule of King
Abdullah ibn Abdilazīz, established a real estate appraiser license law that
will take effect Jan. 1, 2017. As part of that law, an agency known as Taqeem
(Arabic for valuation) was established under the auspices of the Saudi Author-
ity for Accredited Valuers. Taqeem connected with the Appraisal Institute to
provide education to its valuation professionals.
I opened the first of my two classes on Oct. 19, and the language barrier
wasn’t as big a challenge as I had anticipated because English is a required
subject for all Saudi students. Most of the 52 all-male students spoke at least a
little English, but we still had a full-time interpreter. Because Saudi Arabia is
a Muslim state, prayers were observed by nearly everyone in the class — usually two 15-minute prayer sessions each day. Classroom hours were altered as
a result, and the course that typically takes four days to teach took five.
There were a few classroom challenges, but nothing insurmountable. For
example, all the Arabic workbooks were printed without page numbers and the
solution books had missing ans wers. Translation of some of the technical words
MAI, AI-GRS, is
Ohio. He is the
of the Appraisal
and served on
AI’s Board of
2001-03 and as
chair of Region
V in 2003.
Above: Tuesday night at the hookah bar with the boys.
Alcohol is prohibited in the country, so it’s just good food
and friends — and soccer matches on TV.