Meet Adam, A Saudi-American Teenager

adam 1

First of all, Thank YOU Adam for not only taking the time to answer these questions but to allow me the opportunity to interview you in the first place.

It’s my pleasure!  This is my first interview ever, so I’m a little nervous.  And thank God for Spell-Check!

I’ve no doubt that a majority of you who follow my blog are also aware of Susie and her blog, Susie’s Big Adventure which she hosts from her home in Jeddah.  Adam is Susie’s teenaged son who has agreed to answer questions and share his perspectives on being a teenaged Saudi-American boy who now makes his primary home in the Kingdom.

First of all Adam, how old are you?  How old were you when you first arrived in Saudi Arabia?

I am now 16 (but I act a LOT older!).  We moved here to Jeddah when I was 14.  I’ll be 17 on January 23rd – I’m not having a birthday party, but I will be accepting gifts, so be sure to mark your calendars.

Was that the first time for you to be in Saudi Arabia?

Yes.  I had never been outside of the United States before moving here.  My dad had never taken us for a visit to Saudi Arabia, and I kinda wish he would have before we moved here.

Where have you lived in the States?

I lived in South Florida all my life.  I was born in Arizona but we moved to Florida when I was a baby, so Arizona doesn’t count.

Did you have a lot of friends there?

Tons, and I miss them terribly.  I have some really awesome friends back in Florida.  They are as cool as cucumbers.

How did you feel when your parents told you that you all were going to relocate and live in Saudi Arabia?

Well, honestly I didn’t know how to feel about it.  I had mixed emotions.  On one hand, I wasn’t very thrilled about it.  And on the other hand, the thought of moving there was a little exciting (and misleading).  But I was happy where we were in Florida, and I would have just been starting high school there, so I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be going to school with all my cool cucumber friends.

Did you know any Arabic before you arrived?  And by comparison, how is your Arabic now?

I knew some Arabic, but not enough.  My dad always spoke Arabic to me since I was born, so I could understand a lot, but I was always shy about speaking it.  Now I’m taking an Arabic class in school and I can carry on a casual conversation and get around quite well, most of the time.  I’m learning how to read and write Arabic, and when we’re surrounded by Arabic speakers, I can translate for my mom.  Her Arabic sucks!  XD

Please share your initial thoughts and impressions of when you first arrived in Saudi Arabia.  What was it like?  How easy or not was it to adapt and get adjusted?

There was so little color here compared to Florida, where it’s green and lush.  Here it’s beige and sandy and dusty.  I met all of my dad’s family during the first week when I arrived.  They were all really welcoming and caring and loving to me, and it made me feel really good.  I had never felt such love from almost complete strangers as I did then.  The time difference made it hard for me to adapt because I would sleep so much during the day and be up all night.  For the first 6-8 months, I had no friends because I couldn’t get enrolled in school all that time, so it was really boring after a while.

adam 2 What do you like best about living in Saudi Arabia?  What do you like least about living in Saudi Arabia?

I have made some great friends now at my school.  There are some really amazing people here from all over the world.  If I didn’t have them and my mom, I would probably go crazy in this place.  I also love shawarma and that I can get it almost 24 hours a day.  Oh, and I love the smell of taxis here – they smell like a combination of curry, BO, and cigarettes.  Lovely!  And I love days when it rains here, so in two years I’ve enjoyed maybe five random days of rain.  And I’ve got to add that the barbecue chicken places here are incredibly delicious – they really are.

And what do I like least about living here?  Where do I begin?  Well, I hate how almost everything here has a contradiction.  Like how women here have to wear the abaya and cover their hair, but on TV we can see half naked women and just about anything.  I hate that I can’t buy my kind of music here (like Panic! at the Disco and Mindless Self Indulgence).  I hate that there are no movie theaters here, no concerts to speak of, no mixing with women, and there is practically nothing for teenagers to do, so a lot of them get into trouble.  I don’t like wearing the thobe either – I’m much more comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt.  I don’t like that I feel like I can’t be who I really am here.  I feel like I can’t be vocal or political or colorful here without getting into trouble or attracting attention.

Are you accepted by other teens as a Saudi or an American or something else?  How easy is it for you to make new friends in Saudi Arabia?

I really don’t have many Saudi friends and I’m considered a half-breed (cue Cher!).  Some people call me American and some call me Saudi.  My friends are mostly from Lebanon, Jordan, Korea, Pakistan, USA, Syria, Turkey, etc.  Once I got into school, I made friends really easily.  There aren’t that many Saudi kids at my school, and for the most part, with a few exceptions, I haven’t found them to be too friendly towards me.  They seem to think they are superior to everyone else and I’m just not like that.

What do you do for entertainment in Saudi Arabia?

I try to keep myself busy, but at times it’s unbearably boring because day after day, it’s the same old thing.  I listen to my music (which I download from the internet), I do graphic art and design, I play video games, and I try to hang out with my friends as much as I can.  I also Skype a lot.  I read and I like to write.  I also like to cook. – I make a mean grilled cheese!  I wish there were more things to do here outside home like in the states, but getting around is a problem since my mom can’t drive here.

Do you feel that you as an individual have changed since moving to Saudi Arabia?  If so, how, in what ways?

I feel like I’ve really matured since I’ve been here.  Well, from 14 to 16 – there’s a lot of personal growth going on anyway!  I think I’ve changed in good ways and I’ve come out of my shell and have become more optimistic.  Before moving here, I was going through this dark stage, listening to different music, wearing black all the time…  I’m glad I’m out of that stage!  I think I’ve become more serious about school (my mom says it’s about time!) and I’m into sports and into happier music.

After having lived in Saudi Arabia now for two years, are you starting to feel more Saudi?  Or do you consider yourself more American?  Please explain your answer.

Honestly, I don’t think I will ever feel more Saudi.  I really feel like an American.  I never knew most of my Saudi family until I moved here.  I grew up as an American kid for 14 years.  I don’t think like the Saudis do.  They look at the world and at many things so differently than I do.  I see art and beauty in many things, and they seem to see sin in everything.  My mind just doesn’t work that way!

What has been your best experience since you have been in Saudi Arabia?

The Family Fun Day at my school was probably the most fun I’ve had here.  There was live music, everyone was having fun and in good moods, and it was such a positive atmosphere.  I got to chill with my friends and I think I ate 7 shawarmas that day!  It was so good!

If you are up to answering this one, what has been your worst experience in Saudi Arabia?

Getting robbed and thrown out of a moving car was definitely the lowest point in my entire life.  I felt like I was going to die and no one would know.  That day I lost all trust in humanity.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to trust people on the streets ever again.

What advice do you give to other teens who have shifted to Saudi Arabia with their parents?

To keep on believing in themselves and not to listen to people that throw insults and put you down.  Keep on working toward your dreams and don’t give up on them.  Once you find an all-right group of people to hang with, you’ll be okay.

Where do you hope to ultimately attend college?  What do you think you’d like to major in?

I hope to go to college in Washington State and major in music theory and graphic art.

What are your interests and hobbies?  Are you able to do all of them in Saudi?  Why or why not?

I’m an avid music fan, I love graphic design and photography, and I’m crazy for comedy.  Yes, I can do them all here, but with limitations.  In actuality I think that the restrictions I have on me here only inspire me more to make art and share my music and make people laugh, because people here don’t seem to appreciate creativity enough.

What do you think about your mom’s blog?  How has her blog helped you adjust to Saudi Arabia?

I think my mom is a ROCK STAR.  When my mom writes a post about me, it makes me feel awesome.  I like reading the comments then and it blows my mind that complete strangers really do care about me and my well being.  It makes me feel better about my situation of being here.

Do you think you might start your own blog someday?

I’ve been considering it for a long time.  My mom has tried to encourage me to write my own blog.  But I am too politically outspoken and I’m afraid if I started a blog from here, I might get myself into trouble!  Down the road, I would probably like doing my own blog, but for now, I think it’s in my best interest to remain silent – because I don’t want what I say to be held against me in a court of law!  I plead the 5th!

Are there any additional comments, remarks you’d like to pass along?

Saudi Arabia is a wonderful place and I think it’s a lot easier to live here if you were actually born here.  Thank you for asking me to do this interview.  Now I feel like a ROCK STAR!

Thank you so much Adam (Captain Kabob!) for taking the time to answer my questions.  I wish you and your family all the best!


65 Responses

  1. So nice to hear from you Captain Kabob! I bet your parents are so very proud of you in that you are able to have such a positive attitude and make the most of your situation! I think that you are going to be a very sucessful person.

  2. Ah, I am so glad to meet Adam! (I saw your picture and was like “don’t I know him from somewhere?” Then I saw you belonged to Susie!)

    You have a great attitude. I love your sense of humor and all that you shared here. I’m so sorry about the bad experience you had with the bad cab driver. I remember reading that on your mom’s blog and felt very sad for you going through that. Keep your optimistic outlook and keep making people laugh. 🙂

  3. It was good reading Adam’s views. I read about him on Susie’s blog and often wondered about him. Thanks Adam, for sharing your views and Carol, for interviewing him.

  4. Adam is such a fine young man and it was a true pleasure for me to have the opportunity to interview him.

    His mom is presently in the States right now but I informed her on when Adam’s interview was to be posted. I’m sure we’ll hear from both of them soon!

  5. What a great interview.

    There is no place you feel more American than when you are abroad.

  6. hi Adam
    I sympathize with you. I moved from America to rural Iraq when I was 12 and stayed there a year. I think in the long run you will be more flexible and resilient from this, even the hard parts. Thanks for sharing your story.

  7. What a very nice young man. His parents must be very proud of him. I read and enjoy Susie’s blog regularly. In fact, I think I found your blog through hers. I appreciate the different approaches and the shared common sense that is evident in both blogs.

  8. The “cucumber friends” line had me giggling.

    Any change can be a challenge, especially for teenagers. I do hope that Adam will feel more at home in Saudi in years to come insha’Allah. Someone’s negatives are anothers’ positives, however I am sure he will be able to overcome the challenges, as he seems to have quite a positive outlook on life in general and seems able to balance between, in his perception,the good and the bad. And he seems to adore his mom much, I find that very sweet.

  9. My 18 year old step son is in Jeddah, has been for two years. I think they’d have a lot in common! Does Adam have a Facebook account………I could introduce them.

  10. Very cool name Captain Kabob!

    I enjoyed the interview…

  11. Adam ROCKS!
    *\o/* *\o/* *\o/*
    Really cool to read an interview with Adam here!
    I am very sorry he had such a bad experience!

  12. That’s a great idea Abu Sinan!!!

  13. That pic does not look like a mere 16 year old…*sigh* …must be beating the girls off already…lol.

    Nice to hear a first hand account by a teen…they are shifted around based on their parents desires and are often the unheard voice in the background. I wonder what my kids would say in an interview right about now…lol. Nice job.

  14. I really enjoyed reading this interview. His honesty was refreshing, and his style humorous.

    Adam, I wish you all the best. And, if you get to Washingon State, you will LOVE it. I’ve lived that past 9 years (prior to moving to SA) in Seattle, and I miss being there terribly. The University of Washington has a beautiful campus, and the creative scene in Seattle (music, art, film, graphic design) is “off the chain”.

  15. @adam carry a peper spray with you, i don’t know whether it is available in jeddah if not get one from back home.

  16. I was lucky enough to meet Adam and his mom here in the Kingdom awhile back. He is really such a great kid….especially for an American teenager. I’m glad to hear that he is adjusting. Like everything, it takes time. He is the type of Saudi that can open the eyes of other Saudis to the beauty of art and music.

  17. Seems a very balanced guy, very clever.
    It’s lucky he manage to get into international school. It’s sad the saudi kids don’t want to interact and feel too superior.
    He seems very clever.
    He is very perceptive. Especially at his age. Very wise to keep his mouth shut about politics. Sometimes you want to shout out, but it is too dangerous!
    (that’s why I have my blog anonymously)
    A liking for art and music is allready suspicious. 😉

  18. I have had the oppurtunity to meet Adam and talk to him a few times through his mother. He is such an impressive young man and obviously very smart and I am sure he will go far…. Susie, what a great job you have done in the raising of your son…

  19. All the best Adam, Have fun and enjoy your college days. Sounds like a balanced kid, hats off to his parents.

  20. “I grew up as an American kid for 14 years. I don’t think like the Saudis do. They look at the world and at many things so differently than I do. I see art and beauty in many things, and they seem to see sin in everything. My mind just doesn’t work that way!”

    He surely does sound A LOT more mature than his age! 🙂 Masha’Allah, he is a very bright kid. And yes, I agree Adam, don’t speak at all right now! LOL

    Hey Adam, since you are in Jeddah, I bet you will LOVE getting to know my son, who happens to be in Jeddah for now as well. If you want to get in touch with him, let me know or let Carol know and I will forward you his number!

    Don’t worry, he is NOT your typical Saudi either. He was not born in the US but he was here since a year old so close! He is there now for a reason that I think he would not mind talking to you about it if you decide to call him! 🙂

    BTW, he is 18 and his name is Fozan and I miss him terribly! And he also hates thobs and enjoys wearing jeans and T-shirts! 😉

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts and keep your head up high! You have a bright future ahead of you, Insha’Allah! 🙂

  21. hmmm…Adam, the 5th doesn’t work in KSA, you can plead it all you want!!
    Seriously, kudos to you for being true to yourself. How does you Dad feel about your views, and plans to return to the USA?

  22. Adam,

    I have sent you an e-mail via Facebook with Fozen’s name on Facebook, I did the same for him.

    I think you guys have a lot in common.

  23. So no pressure…..
    That was a very poigniant and sad sentence though: *They look at the world and at many things so differently than I do. I see art and beauty in many things, and they seem to see sin in everything.*

    That to my mind is so very sad.

  24. For Adam – I just read the interview and I am so very proud of you. I always knew you were quite a character, but this interview shows what a GREAT character you are – and mature too! We have your room waiting for you here in Washington State. I hope it’s not too long before you’re back in the states.
    Lots of Love from your family in Washington.

  25. Looks like a kid who was forced to come down to Saudi Arabia and feeling like a fish out of water 🙂

  26. Good job Adam! your a Hero of your generation in my Book. *noding*

    and Thanks a million Carol for the amazing interview aaand excellent questions! this was the best read of the month for me.


  27. Yes indeed, Adam is our ROCK STAR now!

  28. He sounds like an old soul in a young body…very attuned to his world. Wish more young men were like him.

  29. Carol – I wanted to say thank you for publishing Adam’s interview – I still don’t know if he’s seen it. I haven’t been able to get ahold of him and I haven’t heard back from him yet!
    And thanks for all the lovely comments from your readers. I feel really blessed to have such a great kid – he amazes me and makes me laugh every day.
    For those who asked about how his dad feels about Adam’s desire to go to college in America, I guess it didn’t come as much of a surprise to him. I’m sure he would prefer that Adam felt stronger ties to KSA. But you never know what could happen…

  30. Such a beautiful boy … I mean young man! Very handsome Mashallah. Looks a lot like his dad, but is smart like his mum.

    I really enjoyed this interview, thank you Carol.

    Adam, whose bare legs do we see reflected in your shades in the first photos?? 😀

  31. They are not hairy legs are they?. 😈

  32. How embarassing! I told Adam he should PhotoShop out that reflection in his glasses but he said nobody would notice!!! I should have known better!

  33. And nobody would have, if it wasn’t for somebody’s obsession with legs….


  35. ‘ I agree Aafke ‘And nobody would have, if it wasn’t for somebody’s obsession with legs….’

    I went back and scrutinized that picture and still barely noticed that! lol

    Now I want to know! Where was that picture taken? We were led to believe that you were a sweet, innocent. What were doing around all those bare NON hairy legs? LOL

  36. I enjoyed reading the interview, handsome and intelligent young man.

  37. Its awesome that Adam got interviewed!

    Adam, if you read this comment, come back and visit soon! We miss you here in Florida!

  38. Captain Kabob: You’ve done your mom proud!

  39. Cool post and an enlightening read especially because I’m a 16 year old Brit girl considering moving to the Kingdom. My Dad’s been living and working there for almost a year and my two brothers moved out there this summer. I went to Saudi Arabia for the first time and spent three months there. I’ve got mixed emotions because I’m used to the UK but I’ve spent a lot of time in the Gulf before. Anywayzz it’s nice to know that there are other people that felt the same i.e Adam…

  40. Susie: It sounds like Adam is a normal teenager who has adjusted fairly well to the change. Thanks so much for sharing his life in the desert.

  41. Adam you ROCK! Great interview. I love your honesty. This experience will be with you forever. Good luck with college in WA, it’s such a gorgeous state. Recognizing your own growth is a huge step in maturity. And as a follower of your Mom, she is a ROCK STAR.

  42. Aafke, I am only obsessed with hairy male legs and only those that you draw 😀 You have corrupted me!

    These are clearly legs attached to a female. I am just a very observant and intelligent woman. Hehe.

  43. Thank you all so much for all the possitive comments, and all the love! I felt so awesome when I read them all! You all ROCK!

    Thank you again, American Bedu, for interviewing me and putting it on your blog! You are totally awesome!


  44. Thank you for the interesting interview and thanks to Susie for directing me to it. Adam, please keep writing. You are express yourself well and I will be proud to say someday that I have been reading your writing since you were 16. Best wishes, Carol Jennings

  45. Adam/Captain Kabob,

    It’s been so much fun interviewing you! And if you have other friends who would be willing to be interviewed and share their experiences about life in Saudi Arabia, please have them email me at


  46. OMG, it’s the real Captain Kabob? Here???
    I’m faintinggggggg……

  47. Peace to you Adam! Great to hear your account of life in SA as an American teen.

    As a Canadian cannot imagine how life is like there, so foreign.

  48. I forgot to comment when i read this post last week…
    it was awesome! i really enjoyed reading about susies son…it was nce because so many of us read susies blog…so we got to put a child to a mother….and she must be a really amazing mother to raise such a fantastic child!

  49. Nice going Bedu, Susie and Kabob! It’s a great interview. i found the Captain’s comments refreshing, honest and still with the attitude of a teenager…which should be refreshing and honest.

  50. Thank YOU jveeds for your comment. And I agree, Adam’s words are beautiful and candid.

  51. omigosh, im so happy to have stumbled upon this website and have read this interview. this is sooo how i feel now after being recalled back to the kingdom after being away for yearss. Cheers Adam, no one could have said it any better!

  52. Hey when you decide to ‘come back’ and get your education you might think of Canada? Great country, welcoming!

  53. The multiple sets of legs reflected in the glasses make the shot more interesting – they imply that there are people all around him, which is in contrast to the solitary feeling of the shot.

    I liked the interview, very interesting.

    Mr. Capt Kabob, if it’s any consolation, my creativity didn’t really start to flow until I had to deal with firm restrictions being placed on it. In my case, the restrictions were functionality, budget, and the personal taste of my clients (I’m a builder). Maybe your current restrictions will lead to a great up-welling of powerful creativity now, or later on when you can express yourself more freely.

    Since you’re into graphics, and since you’re having this very unique and interesting life experience… have you ever considered drawing a comic about it? That is, a graphic novel / novela / illustrated story or illustrated essays? You could publish it later, if now it’s too dangerous for you to do so. I for one would buy that comic in a second! (Even if it were published online first, I’d buy the hard copy.) I’d love to see you at APE someday (Alternative Press Expo) in San Francisco, CA, USA.

    Off topic, I’m sorry you were tossed out of a moving car.

  54. nice to learn a bit more about adam 🙂

    I’m currently 15 and will be 16 on the 24’th of january. I grew up in america too, and just recently moved to saudi arabia for the first time in my life last year on the 15th of december. I’m actually turkish, and I’m glad you have some turkish friends. All my friends here are turkish besides one of them being a saudi. I get very bored here too, and would like it if you wanted to hang out with me and my friends. hahaha you can contact me at

  55. Btw i am very interest in graphic design and photography myself, I LOVE to draw 😀

  56. […] Khalil and her special blog, Susie’s Big Adventure.  Last October I interviewed Susie’s son, Adam, on what is was like to be a Saudi-American teenager who had spent all his life until his teens in […]

  57. I am Adam’s fifth grade teacher and a friend of his mom, Susie. It has truly been a pleasure reading this article. Adam has grown and matured tremendously in te past years, and he is very handsome. I’m not surprised at his interest in the arts – I think I could have predicted that. I am very proud of the advice he gave to others in similar circumstances (sounds like smoething I would have said). Thank you for sharing – I am always interested in my studernts lives. Adam is certainly leading a very different and interesting one. Adam, if you are reading this … know that I am very proud of you. When you get back to the states – look me up (my email is attached and I am also friends on facebook with your mom) Keep in touch… I can still be reached at PPCES too. Lots of love and blessings – Mrs. Mulcan

  58. Dear Judy,

    I am so honored to have your comment on the blog about Adam. Your post not only reiterates what a special young man he is but what a gift he has in you as a teacher. I’d like to think that all of us regardless of our age will always remember those teachers in our lives who made such a difference as to who we became and where we are.

    Regards, Carol

  59. Hi Adam,
    I’m a great fan of your mother’s and I agree with you, she rocks!

    I really enjoyed reading your interview and getting to understand your perspective on things.

    Keep up the good work and may your drams for the future come true!

  60. Sorry, not your drams, your dreams !!!

  61. Hi Carol and Adam,

    Wonderful interview! Adam, I am so proud of you and your family in making it happen/work/enjoy both cultures brought into your family. I am writing a book (a memoir) dedicated to a gem (my father)…who w/o his keen sense of adventure, my family Mom and younger 2 1/2 yrs., brother wouldn’t have been introduced to Saudi Arabia . My central location is Jeddah and would love to promote your ideas/suggestions on my website as we all our out for a similar cause; i.e. promoting cultureal understanding between the East and West. I have been rec’vg regular emails from your mom– she rocks as does Carol.

    Best and to a new-found friendship.


  62. well , Adam’s experience does not reflect the Saudi lifestyle in general . he happened to come a certain community under certain conditions that created a Saudi- Arabian looking young man with a complete typical judgmental American mentality! ” I see art and beauty in many things, and they seem to see sin in everything” !! for the love of god man, how can one say such an stupid thing!! “they see sin in everything”! have even tried to research and look deep on the Saudi Arabian CULTURES and see why they think in a certain! in fact as person who is into the art u must value the long-established traditions and heritage ( u don;t have to follow them , u can go the states instead and have a colorful wild drinking parties and have stand-up nights with some random chick !) u do whatever floats ur boats brother! but don’t talk about the saudi cultures ( and for this matter andy other Islamic-Eastern cultures ) in a very disrespectful and childish way and implay that the western ( the American in this case ) is superior than other cultures and it is the culture of arts and beauty! For the love of humanity man, how did your mom raise you to be this narrow minded!!! oh my loving god , I can believe that one who is multi-raced can be like this ! very judgmental!! boy do your research , spend more time reading about your roots and acutely SPEND time with intellectuals Saudis who know their heritage and modern culture ( and remember than difference between different parts of Saudi , east -west- najd – south and north )

    I honestly hope that when you grow up, you will become more open-minded and cultured person ! I real dont want another SELL-OUT Saudi out there!!

  63. i don’t think he can say he knows or talks about saudi’s when all his friends are foreigners.

    i know soooooooo many creative and music lovers who are saudi and never went out of the country
    creativity does not have boarders or nationality.
    he said that we look at the world with the thought of sin
    yes when the thing were looking at is a sin like it is in Christianity or any other religion. i have begone to think that we saudi are more open minded than the americans.
    i understand where hes coming from cause i lived in america when i was younger and when i came here i hated it but when i started to open my mind and heart and to be posstive and understanding i love saudi arabia to a level that any other saudi feels about his or her life.

  64. MoMeSho!

    Thanks for expressing your view. I’m glad that you adapted to life in Saudi Arabia. Not everyone will and I believe it may be even harder for a western teenager to adapt to a life in the Kingdom than an adult expatriate who comes to work.

  65. […] up Captain Kabob: Marinated in  Florida, USA for 14 years and grilled to perfection in Saudi Arabia. A mother […]

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