Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: A Place of Realizations

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Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: A Place of Realizations

I was born and grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Thirteen years later, I moved to the Philippines where my mother is from. Today, I’m in my 20s working as a Finance and Operations Coordinator in Manila, and a freelance writer on the side. I am half-Arabian and half-Filipino, and it’s a given that whenever I mention Riyadh to my Filipino friends or co-workers they always ask the same questions: “Oh, you grew up in a desert?” or “Have you ridden a camel?” It’s funny when I think about it, but Riyadh is so much more than these stereotypes.

Riyadh is where I enjoying viewing the city lights at night when my father picked me up from school. It’s a place where you can simply stumble upon a stranger who will give you a glimpse of kindness and a sweet smile. It is a place where I learned many life lessons, but at the same time experienced many hardships.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all butterflies and rainbows in Riyadh. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the city. My family and I had to move apartments a couple of times, and we struggled financially. Despite this, the neighbors were always nice and accommodating. Except for that one apartment my mom claimed was haunted. (Spooky!)

Riyadh is a strict city. Unlike here in the Philippines, I could expect to be called out by the police for not wearing my hijab outside – if of course, I was caught. Despite this lack of freedom, the city offered various attractions to enjoy. My lifestyle in the city wasn’t wild, though. I lived a simple teenage life enjoying my teen years with friends at school.

One of the iconic moments during my school years was the basketball tournament between different international schools. Since I loved watching basketball, and so did my friends, we would cheer and shout our lungs out at every game. It was fun, we would even have cheer battles with other students.

The school would host other events as well, always located in a compound called Philippine Embassy. Students from different international schools would compete through dance, music, and other activities. I joined in, and this is where I built up a little of my confidence.

I grew up spending most of my time on the computer. Waking up early to play World of Warcraft is my favorite memory. Still, I consider these the best years of my life.

During the weekends or holidays, we would go view the mountains, visit resorts in Al-Khubar, or drive a couple hours to the mighty Red Sand Dunes. The landscape during the journey was so broad and clean, and my father would tease us by driving fast and taking a quick turn by the end of the cliff (sounds scary, but it was completely safe). He would then drive up the cliff and accelerate faster as he went down – as a kid, it felt like a roller coaster and it was definitely an unforgettable moment.


My father enjoying a sunrise in Al-Khobar.

The best part of Riyadh is that it’s a city where no one sleeps. My family and I would go out even at midnight and the streets were still bright and alive. My favorite place to go was called Batha, where you can find the cheapest items, and of course, the best Shawarma there is! I cannot stress enough how the food in Riyadh is simply the best – Kabsah, Sambosa, Kebabs, and Felafel. Though there is similar fare in the Philippines, it is nothing compared to my lovely hometown.

To this day, Riyadh has a special place in my heart, and I will visit it one day to relive all the memories of my childhood and teenage years. Even though I had a hard time moving to a completely different country and culture, I was able to move forward thanks to what I learned in my hometown.

I can say that I’ve lived two lives. I grew up with lots of loyal friends, slowly learning the culture of Riyadh. Then suddenly I moved to the Philippines, had to meet new people and learn a completely different way of life. I bet my father was the one who had to adjust the most since he had to learn how to speak Tagalog. I give the biggest kudos to my dad!

Farrah Mandeeli

Farrah Mandeeli

For freelance inquiries, linked in https://www.linkedin.com/in/farrah-mandeeli-08595911b I’ve been a freelance writer for 3 years since college, it’s my passion! Having to live in two different countries and adjust to change is my biggest challenge. I’m a graduate with a BS in Business Management with a Major in Operations, and currently working as a Finance and Operations Coordinator while also a freelance writer on the side. I’m 21, and still looking for more adventures in life!