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Back in Riyadh

When I was in high school, my family lived for a while in Saudi Arabia. My father was working for Bell Canada, a Canadian telecommunications company charged with setting up Riyadh’s telecommunications infrastructure. I was too old to go to SAIS-R, (the American International School in Riyadh, now called AIS-R), where my sister spent a few years, so instead I continued at my high school in Toronto. Which was cool, because I got to use the car!

I did, however, spend my summers and Christmases in Riyadh. And it was in Riyadh where I worked my first job – as a lifeguard at the olympic-sized swimming pool on the Bell Canada compound.

A gold souk in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

My mother and I at one of the gold souks in Riyadh – an open stall dripping with gold necklaces, bracelets, and charms. If I’d been a late 80s/early 90s rapper, I would have been set.

I was in Saudi Arabia a few years before “the war and stuff”, and I always felt comfortable there. We of course had to abide by Saudi religious laws, and I’m pretty sure any fooling around would not have been tolerated by the authorities. But the people we encountered in the market were always friendly, and I never felt in any danger while in town. At one point my father and I took a trip to Jeddah to do some snorkeling and fishing on the Red Sea. We stayed with a group of Saudi men on the coast (we were the only non-Saudis), and were invited to participate in one of their feasts, where lamb meat was served on a huge blanket on the sand and eaten by hand. Knowing we were not used to their customs, our Saudi hosts were gracious and helpful, and made sure we felt welcomed.


Me being awesome in Jeddah.

Nowadays I wouldn’t take my family to Saudi Arabia. A lot has changed in that region since we lived in Riyadh, and the Department of State currently warns its citizens to “carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia”. But I’m glad I have the memories I do of my time in Riyadh. Living overseas was what got me interested in different languages and cultures, which eventually led to my living in France and Ireland. And it got me wanting to teach my own children about different people who live in different parts of the world, so that as they grow up, acceptance and understanding of people of all varieties will come naturally to them.


Leave a comment
  1. Julia
    25. Sep, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    Brian? Is this you? i.e. the Brian that worked with me the Varicent commissions tool at Thomson Reuters? I just came across this blog by chance then noticed this!

    You’ll never believe this but I lived on the same compound as you in Riyadh. My Dad worked for Telecom Australia and we took over the contract from Bell Canada and I ended up living in Riyadh and going to school at SAIS-R. How funny! I was also there in the late 80’s.

    Hope you are well and still enjoying France.

    • Brian Crawford
      25. Sep, 2014 at 10:55 am #

      Wow Julia – how funny is that! I wish we had known about this when we were together in London; I am sure we would have had plenty of stories to share.

      I’ll send you an email and we can catch up. Hope you have been well!

  2. Vijay Murjan
    20. Oct, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    Hi Brain,

    I want your help regarding PUD.

    Please buddy.


    • Brian Crawford
      20. Oct, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

      Hi Vijay, what do you need help with? I imagine you are talking about Professional Development Units (PDUs) and not Planned Urban Development?

      Let me know – glad to help. Thanks!

  3. AK
    21. Nov, 2017 at 11:36 am #

    Have you ever considered selling the negative films of old Saudi photos? I am just a nostalgic hobbyist who is wasting his money on such stuff 🙂

    • Brian Crawford
      30. Nov, 2017 at 11:34 am #

      Hello AK,

      Unfortunately I do not have the negatives to any of the old photos from Saudi Arabia; I was quite young while I was there, so it is my parents who have held on to most of that sort of thing. If I had any interesting photos for you I would definitely send them your way, without selling them! Next time I am at my parents’ place I will see if there are any interesting photos of Riyadh or Saudi Arabia that I think you might be interested in. I definitely had some interesting experiences while I was living over there.

      All the best to you!

  4. DAVID
    10. Feb, 2018 at 5:00 pm #

    HELLO just interested to know what year you was in Saudi and how old you were at the time.

    • Brian Crawford
      26. May, 2018 at 12:33 pm #

      I was a teenager when I was there, which was pretty neat. It was what first piqued my interest in experiencing different languages, cultures, and traditions around the world, which is something I’ve carried with me through the years.

  5. Marie-Christine Maillet
    30. Mar, 2018 at 9:22 pm #

    Hi, I was there from 1980 to 1983. My dad worked for Bell. He still has a lot of pictures avec videos. I am talking about my life there with my son and came up on your blog. I was looking for some pictures



    • Brian Crawford
      26. May, 2018 at 12:34 pm #

      Very cool – that is great that you are showing your son some of the experiences that you had while you lived in Saudi Arabia. Maybe one day he will be able to visit the area himself!

    • AK
      27. May, 2018 at 2:14 pm #

      Hi Marie
      I am a local born in the 80s. Photography back then was limited to government and foreign workers. People are always interested in seeing any old photo of Riyadh. I appreciate if you can share \ sell photos of Riyadh back then?

  6. Michael Reed
    08. May, 2018 at 2:04 am #

    Just noticed you are on the FB group for the compound as well, Brian.

    Marie-Christine – did you say videos – pop some on the FB ! 🙂

    • Brian Crawford
      26. May, 2018 at 12:35 pm #

      That is a great idea! My family has some videos from the region as well – in fact, I have a picture of me taking a video of the Camel Trail with a big ol’ videocamera back in the day.

  7. AK
    27. May, 2018 at 2:11 pm #

    Hi Brian
    For some reason, I just received your comments notification in my email. I appreciate your help and I think, to me, any old photo of Riyadh is interesting and here is why. Photography back then was too expensive for some locals and for others, it was not interesting. We missed a lot of memories because they were not documented. I live in Ontario Canada at the moment so it would be much easier for shipping. Thanks again.


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