Friendships Formed In Foreign Lands
June 6, 2022
10 years ago, Moataz and Bethany, the founders of Bankey, LLC. and I met in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. We had all arrived from very different backgrounds and lives and locations and were young single professionals making lives for ourselves and having an extraordinary life changing experience in a city that has been the principal gateway to Makkah, for hundreds of years, Jeddah, or also called Jiddah.
Jeddah is located in the Hejaz region of Saudi Arabia on the west coast. About 4,7 million people live in Jeddah and the city is a port city located on the Red Sea.It is a very popular local Saudi holiday destination with hundreds of hotels and beach resorts offering value holidays to 7 star dreams. Jeddah is a very multi cultural city with temporary residents like we all were and foreigners who come for pilgrimage and often marry into the local population, bringing diverse culture and language centered around Islam.
You will find some of the best Indian and Pakistani food outside of those countries and of course every middle eastern nationality from Lebanon to Palestine and many North African influences. This diverse culture fostered a liberal vibe in the city and meeting and visiting Saudi nationals and becoming friends was and I am sure, still is, happening.
Jeddah back then was a city of work hard, play hard and besides a very active social life, we went on spectacular boat trips into the middle of the red sea to go snorkeling on reefs not damaged by the masses of tourism. Diving in Al Leith to see whale sharks, hiking down Wabaah crater, a spectacular cauldron shot from the earth when a lava field hit an underwater aquifer thousands of years ago, creating a vital salt pan that was used in trade long before the birth of Saudi Arabia.
Camping in the cool mountains of Taif with their sharp craggy rock climbing faces unclimbed and undiscovered. My personal favorite was camping in the desert in Masturah which has spectacular massive high sand dunes which are perfect for dune bashing and quad biking.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Jeddah we all experienced, was the immense amount of kindness and care amongst the residents and especially the expats who continued a tradition of paying it forward. Someone helped them when they first arrived so they help someone else who had newly arrived, settle down and find their perfect social circle.
For me the biggest social shift was that it did not matter who you were, which company you worked for, what your position or status in a company was. When it came to socializing, everyone was equal, which meant you could be hanging out with a CEO, doctor, professor, lawyer, artist, photographer, scientist, secretary, banker, it did not matter. Everyone was a foreigner in Saudi and we all helped each other. It was truly warm and fuzzy.
In 2009 The King Abdullah University for Science and Technology opened and brought in a large contingent of intellectuals into Jeddah and this is the community and life that Moataz, Bethany and I mixed in. Many forward thinkers in various fields, brought in to create a spectacular university which was the dream of the then king of Saudi Arabia, H.R.H King Abdullah who created a 1 Billion USD endowment to fund the project.
Moataz, Bethany and I all align in our business philosophy of Empowch and as the newest member of their team, it has been such a blessing to be able to join them on our shared paths. They have built an amazing financial empowerment platform that will create financial inclusion for millions. They have also built a remarkable team based in Mexico, Lebanon, Canada and the U.S.A. and I will introduce the rest of the team next week.
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