On a boiling August day in 1953, three-year-old Rick Snedeker stepped off an Arabian American Oil Co. (Aramco) company airliner with his family. His father was a new employee at the then-fledgling national oil company, Aramco, at the time run by several American oil giants, including Standard Oil.
The family was entering a life as different from what they left behind as sandpaper is to silk. But it was to prove fabulously exotic and, simultaneously in many ways -- and without question -- 'home.'
In this charming and affectionate memoir -- 3,001 Arabian Days: Growing up in an American Oil Camp in Saudi Arabia (1953-1962) -- Snedeker recalls through a series of vignettes his fond and strange memories of living for nearly a decade in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia during the most formative years of his life.
In its early days, and in Snedeker's childhood, Dhahran was not much more than a glorified oil camp as the American companies involved in Armaco developed the far-flung Saudi oil fields. To accommodate its mostly American families, the company built comfortable communities that, oddly enough, somewhat resembled their American counterparts. Everywhere, protective, watchful adults kept eyes on the children; nativity pageants with live animals took place on the King's Road baseball field, and families made annual trips to boisterous tri-camp fairs. Kids breakfasted on Pep Flakes cereal (with plastic toy soldiers inside), powdered whole milk, and enjoyed occasional afternoon treats of chocolate milkshakes churned in Waring blenders. Life provided an enveloping sense of safety and security along with a great deal of happiness.
Dhahran and environs were filled with camels, endless dunes and kindly Saudis that Snedeker continuously encountered in his childhood in the desert. Then too families had to occasionally confront the strange effects and dangers of diseases unknown in America and frequently broiling desert heat that could literally bring people to their knees
Aramco treated its employee families to biannual grand 'long vacations.' The author describes the Snedeker's international travel to the world's most glittering metropolises, exotic getaways and remote hideaways. London. Hong Kong. Zurich. Honolulu. Asmara. Bangkok, Venice. Hofuf. Bahrain. New York City.
Being raised in oil-camp Dhahran provided a unique, exotic environment that made the children who grew up there different from other American kids. Known as 'Aramco brats,' reflecting the fact that most employees were veterans of the recent World War II, these expat children experienced things in Dhahran and traveling the world that stateside youths couldn't even imagine. When the time came for Aramco dependents to return to the U.S., many children were viewed as 'other,' because of the seemingly mysterious place they had called home.
But it was all good in the end. Even the murderous 9/11 airliner assault on New York's World