Sam's Life

Follow Sam Around The World

Dear Friends, I’ve landed in Jeddah!

Getting Settled

I’m getting more and more on my feet here in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. My apartment is just two blocks from the Red Sea. About one hundred miles across the Red Sea is Sudan with Egypt to the north and Somalia (and its pirates!) to the south.

As you know, I was a bit nervous about coming here. Everyone was asking me, “Aren’t you afraid to be living in Saudi Arabia?” One person even wrote to me that I “was forcing the hand of God by placing myself in harm’s way.” I must say, however, I have been thus far pleasantly surprised. Every day I wander a little bit farther from the office and my apartment surroundings, and I’m becoming more and more comfortable with my environment.

Sam with Egyptian friend Waleed at Al-Baik restaurant

My apartment building is flanked in every direction by American fast food establishments such as McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC, Carl’s Junior, Papa John’s Pizza, Dunkin Donuts, etc. However, if I wander just a quarter mile farther north, I find Al-Baik!

Al-Baik is Saudi-style fried chicken. This tremendously popular fast food chain is common only to the Jeddah area. I’ve been there twice already and plan on returning there this evening. (Hopefully I can get there before they close for evening prayer!)  At Al-Baik people literally line up to sit at my table for a few minutes so they can practice their English. It seems that everyone wants to talk to the lone American-on-the- street in South Jeddah.

The Culture

There is no alcohol in Saudi Arabia. Many of my American friends would find it rather disheartening to be without a local pub or “watering hole” to frequent every evening, but for some reason alcohol never served to greatly advance my career! I can live without it.

I have found in the Jeddah area that people have great respect for Americans. Many residents here have visited the United States or attended college in the States. But, it’s true, there are the usual criticisms about US foreign policies – long standing policies that tend to neglect Islamic views and values.

On Saudi TV, there are the usual commercials pushing the latest western gadgets and foods. TV programming includes a lot of American music, movies and theme shows such as “Arab Idol”! However, I understand that an attempt to depict the typical life of an American Muslim family is under attack. Yes, TLC’s reality TV program “All American Muslim” is under attack!  It’s said, “The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks, while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to the liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish”. To read the entire article click here.  If these nuts want you to boycott the remaining sponsors of “All American Muslim,” then I say find out who the sponsors are and do business with them!

There are minority extremists in all cultures and religions. I was raised a Baptist. There are a few ignorant, brain-deficient Baptists in Arizona and California who pray regularly that President Obama will die from a brain tumor and that his daughters will remain barren. For details click here. Those Baptist congregations encourage their members to carry concealed weapons and some members have joined local militias. But the actions of these few Baptists don’t by any means indicate that all Baptists are fanatics, preach hatred or are preparing for terrorist attacks on US buildings.

It is, as I’m quickly learning in Saudi Arabia, the same with Islam. There are numerous branches of Islam and within some of these (“denominations” of sorts) are radical extremists that do preach and teach hatred and encourage violence. But, the overwhelming majority of Muslims are peace-loving men, women and children who simply yearn for freedom, democracy and a better way of life, and they just want to worship God in the way they see fit.

My Mission

It is my personal mission here to serve as an encourager of religious reconciliation between Jews, Muslims and Christians. (Do I ever have my work cut out for me!) My colleagues here in the Middle East are from Libya, Ethiopia, Egypt, the United States, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and, of course, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We are Christians, Muslims and Jews working together for world peace.

Here at this blog you are encouraged to ask the tough questions about my life here in the Middle East, about Islam, Christianity, Judaism, US-Middle East relations, etc. Let’s take a hard look at all that makes us fear each other.

Now…I wish all my friends in the US and around the world a very merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, and a wonderful  New Year 2012!  May we each pledge to do our part to make a better future for all our children and grandchildren around the world.

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December 24, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

7 Comments »

  1. Are places like Jeddah typical in Saudi Arabia, or is it a more secular city than a lot of places in Saudi Arabia?

    Comment by Joseph | December 27, 2011 | Reply

  2. Jeddah is a bit more relaxed that the rest of Saudi Arabia. It has more of a cosmopolitan atmosphere. It’s quite strict in following traditional Muslim customs–one of the strictest religious nations in the world. Women are kept separate from most public activities. There are separate diningrooms in restaurants for “men” and “families.” Women are not permitted to walk alone on the streets, to drive or even to vote. Calls to worship/prayer from local mosques are enforced by “religious police” who make certain that all businesses close at those times. Changes are coming soon. It has been announced by the government that women will be permitted to vote and run for local public office beginning in 2005. I’m told other changes are on the way as well. I’m a guest here, and as a guest I’m free to learn and discuss and to express my opinions. Everyone here is very friendly and treat me with great honor and respect.

    Comment by Sam Shropshire | December 29, 2011 | Reply

  3. What a wonderful opportunity!!

    Comment by Susanne | December 29, 2011 | Reply

  4. Gods blessings on you, Sam! I am so happy for you that you are in the place which strengthens your ministry. Thank you for the continuing blogs…Joe and I will follow you on your journey! Great love from Karen

    Comment by Karen Engelke | January 16, 2012 | Reply

    • Karen and Joe, so good to hear from you! Sam

      Comment by Sam Shropshire | January 17, 2012 | Reply

  5. I love this blog – keep on keepin on. Safe travels and may the “Source” be with you!

    Comment by Cathie Glover | February 2, 2012 | Reply

  6. Cathie, thank you for your kind words. I’m enjoying reporting what I feel and see. ~ Sam

    Comment by Sam Shropshire | February 21, 2012 | Reply


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