Memories of Saudi from an American Expat

aramco-bratAlthough one may be an American citizen, there can be circumstances when ones first sense of home and acceptance may not necessarily be America. In some cases, home, security, happy memories, acceptance and friends may equate to another country such as Saudi Arabia. One American shares her candid experiences what it was like to be born as an “Aramco Brat” (which is a term of endearment) and spend both childhood and tween years in Saudi Arabia feeling perfectly at ease. Her years spent in Saudi Arabia were formulative years which molded her into the independent and intelligent woman she is of today. She gives us a special glimpse of childhood and special memories…

OKay, so I was born in Dammam and lived on the ARAMCO compound in Ras Tanura on the Gulf till I wasCB004836 12 years old.  We were about an hour from Al Khobar, which we frequented quite a bit, and right outside a small Saudi city, Rahima.  We spent quite a bit of time off of the compound and traveling around the area.  We went to Bahrain quite frequently as well as Dammam, and Dhahran,the largest of the ARAMCO compounds.  I rode camels as a child and went to Saudi souks and bazaars.  My parents were both teachers for ARAMCO and during the gulf war, my mom took my brother and I back here to the states, while my dad stayed and helped with things on the compound.  I remember leaving so quickly and in “emergency” mode, as Americans were urged to leave, because we were only right across the gulf from Kuwait.  When we returned, we carried on life as normal, the only life I really new.  We had rocks instead of lawn, palm trees and were only fifty feet from the beach.  We had quite bad humidity because we lived on the gulf and I can remember the days waking up and the windows would be soaking wet from it, it looked like it had rained, yet of course it had not.   I especially miss the food, the schwarmas, the sweet bread cooked in the outdoor oven.  I first got my taste for Orangina in Saudi, that was when you couldn’t get it in the states, only overseas, and last year when I finally found it in a grocery store here in the states, I was so excited and it totally brought me back.  I remember when the first McDonalds went into Khobar, we were so excited.  And when Kentucky Fried Chicken went into Rahima, schwarmawe couldn’t believe it.  When I was growing up there, Saudi was getting its first real taste of western culture, McDonalds, satellite dishes, etc, and I remember thinking even as a child, that Saudi has such a rich culture, why do they need these western things?  It’s ironic, I can see now obviously how nice it must be for Saudis to have these things, but at the time I thought the country was so intriguing and cultural, that I found it sad they wanted these western things and how much everything was changing.

My time there was amazing.  When my parents informed me that we were leaving, a few years before I would have to be sent to boarding school abroad if we had stayed because ARAMCO schools only go to 9th grade, it was really hard for me.  I had to face the fact that the friends I had made and the only life I had ever known, with the fact that I might never see them again, I had a really hard time.  I was leaving behind more than just people, I was leaving behind a life, and a culture I had become so attached to.  The first year in the States, my parents who had known life in the US before fit in just fine, so did my little brother who was really too young to know Saudi as his home.  But the first year was really difficult for me, I had a hard time adjusting to this new way of life and I sort of had a lot of years ahead, finding out who I was, adjusting to life as an American living in a little city in the states, as to an American who was born in Saudi Arabia and lived half her life there.

It’s still hard now for me sometimes.  Sometimes I have days where I miss everything about it and it’s hard to talk to people about it, even those that are closest to me because they have absolutely no idea what that entails.  When I tell people I was born and raised there, their first reaction is “WHY?”  The western world has a very narrow vision of Saudi and I know that after I graduate college this March, I will most likely return back overseas, or at least I will in the near future.  Saudi taught me a lot about myself and when I started really coming into my own, it was that life in Saudi that I drew from for inspiration.


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