Mr. Friedman said that Yemen was, "not what I had expected."
I cannot count the number of times I heard a foreigner say that about Saudi Arabia, or any other country in the Middle East. Similarly, I have heard the same thing about KAUST from visiting professors who have come during the WEP, and about the USA from students here who have visited.
A wise man once commanded his followers not to judge each other, because we will also be judged; the same measurement we use on others will also be used against us. If I have learned anything in my travels, I have learned that I cannot make judgements against people if I have never visited their country, lived in their culture, or walked in their footsteps; and fully understanding those things can take a lifetime.
Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the USA, are all very complicated countries. They have diverse populations with diverse needs. Much is said and thought about these three countries and the people who live in them by those who have never even visited for a single day. This stereotyping is not right, but it is the way people are.
On a bleaker note, Mr. Friedman speculated that Yemen might be the first country to completely run out of water in 10 to 15 years. This would be a terrible tragedy, and I do hope that in the next decade some of the research thrusts at KAUST can help to make desalination and reuse technologies cheaper and more accessible before Yemen, and other countries in the region, reach a water crisis.