If you've ever lived in Saudi Arabia, you'll realize that there's a lot that you will miss when you leave this beautiful country..
26 September 2016| Last updated on 6 September 2017
Saudi Arabia is one of those places that you don't fully understand or appreciate until after you've left it.
Kids who have spent their childhood would especially agree with me! As a child there was so much to do and there was never a dull moment.
I attended Dhahran High School from 2005-2009 after moving from Khamis Mushayt. It was a wonderful time in my life, where I made life-long friendships, traveled to many different countries with my classmates, and cultivated my passion for culture and politics. I’m always dismayed when Canadians or Americans tell me they hated high school, I loved it!
Jedawel City (also known as MD22) was my compound in Al-Khobar, and the second place I lived in the Kingdom. Although it was much smaller than my first compound in Khamis, it was charming in its own way. Each row of houses connected like townhouses, and had flat roofs accessible at the end of the row by metal ladders. We use to climb up to the roof of my house every weekend at night, and look out at the city discussing life, and cultivating fleeting relationships – note that our parents didn’t always know!
Trips to the Red Sea
While living in Khamis, my dad would take us on trips to the Red Sea to stay at the small “resorts” where we could rent villas and have a sliver of beach to ourselves.
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On the first trip we took we stopped at a bridge in the middle of the mountains to look at some baboons climbing the rocks. Within minutes however, several had surrounded our car and started waving their arms and screeching. We were afraid they were going to get vicious, so we threw out some food to distract them, and then sped away. As a kid, it was great!
Winter was a very welcomed time in the Kingdom for two reasons: The first was the change in temperature, which would drop to around 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit. At night throughout December, I would walk to the park near my house and sit on the swing with my eyes closed. While my dog sniffed the grass, I would listen to the sound of swaying date trees and wrap my arms in my favourite sweater. I still get nostalgic for those moments.
The second reason was because the winter was when all of the kids who had been sent to boarding school, or graduated in previous years would return to visit their families. Those weeks were filled with reunions and parties with old friends.
The food in Saudi is pretty amazing, both traditional and non-traditional. My favourite however - which I didn’t really appreciate until after I left - were shawermas. In Saudi it’s common for restaurants to put french-fries in shawermas, but I’ve yet to come across any shawerma restaurant elsewhere that does it quite like that. I hope you get to try it someday!
I’m not sure my dad enjoyed going to the corniche and souk areas as much as I did, but I enjoyed the chaos that was enshrined in these areas of the city. People from all walks of life and ethnicities traversed the hundreds of small shops looking for deals and unique finds. The smell of oud (or perfume) still reminds me of the first time I bought an abaaya in a shop about the size of a food truck in Khamis Mushayt when I was twelve. It was frightening, exhilarating, and an experience completely unique to that place.
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The Call to Prayer
Known as the “adhan” in Arabic, the Islamic call to prayer was a prominent sound that could be heard across the country five times a day. Although I never quite understood the words being eloquently echoed through the “muezzin,” it became a consistent part of my life. Sometimes it signaled the dawn of a new day, and at other times it was a warning that the shop I was in was about to close. Whenever I hear the “adhan” today, it offers me a sense of comfort.
About the Author
Victoria is a trained historian and political scientist, as well as an aspiring writer and photographer. She holds a masters degree in Global Affairs from the University of Toronto, and currently works as a Content Coordinator with MaRS Discovery District. As a third-culture-kid who grew up in Saudi Arabia, she hopes to use her academic background to educate people about the world through creative means. Her blog Safar, features the stories of TCKs and expats, as well as commentary on travel, politics and culture.