Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sharif Likes Saudi

Although I am a Canadian citizen and am originally from Ghana (I was born there and all my extended family still lives there), home is actually Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. My father works for Saudi Aramco so we've been based in Saudi for the past 13 years. When I tell people I live in Saudi Arabia they're either really curious—or think I'm lying. The most common questions I get are "What's it like?" and "How do you like living there?" In response to the latter, a lot of people are surprised when I tell them that I actually love it there. I don't think I could have had a better childhood growing up anywhere else in the world. The people are amazing, the culture is vibrant, and there's a real sense of community. As a kid, there was never a shortage of fun things to do. Granted, I grew up on a compound and (in terms of certain freedoms) life there is very different from life outside the gates. Off-compound, women can't drive and are required to wear the customary abaya—even in the 120ºF summer months. That kind of sucks, but I respect the culture/would rather not have any run-ins with the المطوعين (religious police).

When asked "what it's like there", answering is a bit more difficult, however, the following videos explain a lot. The first is a post-September 11th CNN segment about Americans living in Saudi and working for Saudi Aramco (how many of you have had former chief international correspondent of CNN Christiane Amanpour come to your hometown and interview your neighbors?) The second video is a parody rap song about life on my compound in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. I wrote and recorded it (as my hip-hop alter ego "DJ Sharstar") in an attempt to combat boredom during the Holy Month of Ramadan (in Saudi, most places are closed in the daytime during Ramadan, so GarageBand was my go-to for entertainment).

"Saudi Mobbin'" was an unexpected hit with Aramcons (and those who love them) and now I'm actually going to be filming a legit music video for it when I go back to Saudi in July (with production being handled by the guys at Aramco Brat Media). Pretty exciting stuff, but I have no plans to quit school and become a rapper just yet.


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