(March 22, 2001, Gazette)
small world, after all
Abdullah al-Ghamdi is a continuing engineering education student
taking an advanced diploma in environmental engineering and applied
science. A native of Saudi Arabia, where the distinguishing geological
characteristic is sand and the temperature this time of year
hovers around the 30 degree celsius mark, Mr. al-Ghamdi and his
family wife Sabah and children Haifa (8), Asalah (6),
Sara (4), and Mohammed (2) moved to St. Johns last
When we arrived at the hotel, they told us it was the last
day of summer, he said. He didnt think they meant
it that seriously.
A cell (histo) biologist working in the Saudi Ministry of Defense
and Aviation medical services corps, Mr. al-Ghamdi is a native
of Jeddah who works in Riyadh. Riyadhs a very beautiful
city, he said. We just have two seasons: summer and
spring. There is no cold like this.
The very cold al-Ghamdi
children (L-R) Haifa, Sara, Asalah and Mohammed.
Part of a group
of Saudi professionals doing the CEE program to assist their
employer in creating a new department in environmental engineering,
Mr. al-Ghamdi had travelled widely throughout western Europe
and the United States before coming to Canada last September.
However, not unlike many native Newfoundlanders, hes a
little shocked at the winter here.
I have never seen weather like this. Its very difficult,
he said. In the beginning, we were happy to see the snow
for the first time. We had only seen it on tv before that, or
Ironically, the al-Ghamdi children were disappointed at the lack
of snow when they first arrived in the country, and kept asking
their dad where it was. And now? They hate it because its
too much, he laughed.
But the similarities dont end there. Like most Newfoundlanders
who move away, Mr. al-Ghamdi doesnt hesitate to reply when
asked what he and his family miss the most about Saudi. Our
relatives, he said. The 32 year old has six sisters and
a brother, and keeps in contact with his mom and dad by phone
Ms. al-Ghamdi comes from a large extended family, too, and might
have felt the distance most acutely just two months ago when
she gave birth to her fourth daughter, Remaa, at the Health Sciences
Centre. However, despite being a stranger in a strange land,
Ms. al-Ghamdi was pleased with her birth experience in St. Johns.
It was new for her, but she liked it, her husband
The al-Ghamdis school-age children attend Macdonald Drive
Elementary School where, their dad says, they have made many
friends. But they miss the more plentiful entertainment opportunities
in Saudi Arabia, where malls are more than places of commerce
In Riyadh, we have more than 50-70 malls, Mr. al-Ghamdi
explained. There are lots of toylands.
In response to this, and in a move thats strikingly similar
to that of most of their Newfoundland neighbours, also fed up
with the winter, the family is planning a trip for the end of
the semester a trip to Disney World.
Despite the snow, Mr. al-Ghamdi says the family really likes
what theyve seen of the province so far, and particularly
the small town atmosphere of St. Johns which, compared
to the 1.1 and 1.5 million people in Jeddah and Riyadh, must
seem quite small indeed.
We like it here, he said. The people here have
been very nice, very kind to us.