“I lived in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” Whenever I say that, I tend to see a surprised expression on people. I guess not many would spend most of their childhood in a Middle Eastern country. But the truth is, I’m always flustered whenever someone asks, “Where did you go to school? Where did you live?” I felt hesitant to respond that I had lived overseas before I came home to my native country, Malaysia. I was afraid of what people would think of me and how I barely have memories of my own country. However, I wanted to keep it to myself that home can be perceived differently for each person. So this is a reminiscence of me growing up in the so-called land of sand.
Moving To Saudi Arabia
I only remembered permanently staying in Malaysia until I was seven years old. In 2004, we moved to Sudan due to my father’s work, as a petroleum engineer. But after residing there for three years, my father had to relocate to Saudi Arabia (Saudi), and we went along with him! Being 10 years old at the time, all I remembered was being excited to get on the plane and fly.
My memory is a bit fuzzy from my first impression of Saudi. But what I clearly remembered was the hot and dry climate. You can even taste or smell the sand that’s flying in the air from the hot wind.
But when we drove to the city of Ras Tanura, our first home in Saudi, I couldn’t stop looking outside the window at the never-ending scenery of the desert. And when we arrived at this gated-residential compound, it was as if we were entering into a new dimension. Because beyond the gate, there were so many rows of houses and green lush landscape. There was a school, a hospital, a supermarket, a café and so much more. It was like a little self-contained community where people from different nationalities and ethnicities come together with English as the common language.
The Gems Of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is not all sand and camels as depicted in the movies. The desert is the main element that makes it up but if you spend more time in it, you can see the sparkles too. I had lived here for about 10 years and there is always something that I found captivating or new. There are always those little things that I call, a gem of Saudi.
1. Diverse Range Of Culture
I studied in an international school for both my primary and secondary education. The perks of going to an international school are meeting new people from all over the world. The best part of it all is learning about the differences that we have but still respecting each other. I had friends from Saudi, Jordan, Australia, Palestine, Germany, Colombia, Venezuela, and more. Whenever I go over to their homes, I would learn a few things about their culture and find their way of life intriguing.
Just like how Malaysia has its traditional food and cuisines, Saudi also has its own unique taste. And I got the opportunity to taste those different cuisines. Nevertheless, I fell in love with something so simple as cheese bread, shawarma, and kabsa, the dishes that will come to my mind when I think of Saudi.
2. The Beautiful Beaches
You’re probably wondering, why would you want to go to the beach in Saudi Arabia? The answer is you have to because it’s beautiful… but only during the winter season unless you want to get scorched. Yes, Saudi has a winter season, to my surprise as well. But going to the beach during winter is something that my family and I would do each year. We would wake up early in the morning, pack our breakfast to go, bring some chairs and carpets and head off to the beach. No joke, we would spend an entire day at the beach, eating and playing games until sunset. Sometimes, we would even have a barbecue, because my father loves to get creative with his cooking skills!
3. When It Rains In Saudi Arabia
It’s very rare to see rain in Saudi Arabia, but when it does rain, it pours. The people of Saudi adore rain so much that I found it intriguing. It’s fascinating to see how something that happens frequently in some countries is perceived differently in another?
It usually rains during the winter, when the sky would usually turn gloomy and dark. But the people would become happy and excited. Rain is something they highly anticipate and appreciate every year. But it can also lead to flooding, hence forcing schools to close. This had actually happened during my secondary years. Since Saudi doesn’t have a proper drainage system to channel excessive rainwater out, roads become flooded. I still remember receiving the news that our school had to close for a week due to the flood. It was so unexpected yet an unforgettable experience for me.
Where Is Your Home Sweet Home?
Home is a very general word that is different for each person. Home could be where the family is or it could be where they were born and raised. But overall, home is where memories are made and remembered when you think of the place. A place you miss and reminisce. A place you long to go back to and relive the good old days. For me, Saudi Arabia is my home sweet home.
But having to live miles away from family, relatives, and friends, Facebook becomes so useful during the times when I wanted to connect and share my experiences. It became a hobby of mine to create photo albums of my family and friends so that we can look back at them in the future.
In the next part of the story, I will share some of the most unforgettable memories I’ve had in Saudi Arabia, ranging from when my two baby siblings were born, road trips, to camping in the desert.