Abdulrahman Hamdi: An identity beyond borders
Abdulrahman Hamdi: An identity beyond borders
On National Day, Saudis abroad share their boundless love for their country and the ways they keep its spirit alive far away from home
September 23, a day when patriotism knows no bounds, the air is electric with our shared heritage, and a tapestry of traditions weaves a sense of unity.
The depth of belonging we feel on Saudi National Day is profound, with annual celebrations cementing our identity – even across oceans and continents.
This year, we sat down with two Saudis living abroad, to reflect on what it means to be from this Kingdom, how the spirit of being Saudi defies physical distances, how they recreate National Day festivities, and to hear their inspiring away-from-home stories.
Read Leena Alsulaiman's reflection here.
Artist and Attorney
Through his art, Abdulrahman Hamdiaims to inspire others to “pause, reflect, and find their own stories within the strokes and shades.” The passionate painter finds solace and empowerment in expressing his emotions through art.
“The canvas becomes my sanctuary as I channel the depths of my soul and feelings onto a visual masterpiece,” he explains.
Showcasing his work in LA and New York in places like the Leila Heller Gallery, Abdulrahman creates a connection with language and culture, and shares his vision with a diverse audience. And working as a licensed attorney in Jeddah, New York, and LA, he aims to bridge both worlds.
“Through every stroke, legal argument, and shared moment of connection, I am dedicated to leaving an indelible mark on the canvas of life.”
Moving to the US to pursue a master's degree from the University of Southern California (USC), Abdulrahman’s fascination with the convergence of law, technology, and entertainment made him interested to contribute to the industry's evolution.
Living in a diverse environment like LA has also shaped his outlook on Saudi culture, positioning it within a broader global context. “The balance between honouring our roots and embracing the global community is a delicate yet enriching endeavour that I've come to deeply appreciate.”
Engaging with people from diverse backgrounds has made him feel like a cultural emissary, bridging gaps and cultivating connections built on mutual respect and understanding.
Longing for Home
Traditional cuisine evokes nostalgia, as the aromas of kabsa and mandi conjure cherished memories of family gatherings, symbolising unity and togetherness, and serving as a reminder of the values that ground him and the unbreakable ties that endure across time zones.
“I miss the warmth and love from family and friends the most.”
Abdulrahman copes by video calling his loved ones, connecting with Saudi students, preparing traditional dishes, participating in cultural and community events, and practicing mindfulness.
“I’ve come to understand that homesickness is a testament to the depth of the connections I hold dear.”
Stereotypes and misunderstandings emerge from a lack of first-hand exposure, failing to capture the nuances and rich complexities of our culture, according to Abdulrahman.
“I firmly believe that a safe space for open dialogue with empathy and respect is a powerful tool for dispelling ignorance and fostering genuine understanding.”
He addresses misconstrued notions by engaging in conversations about the Kingdom’s history, traditions, cultural and societal strides, and diverse society, encouraging a mutual exchange of ideas and a more accurate understanding of the country.
The Pride of Being Saudi
“I always wear a Saudi ring that was gifted to me by my mum. It symbolises her love and support, and serves as a constant reminder of my connection to home and my cultural roots.”
Witnessing ambitious Vision 2030 projects like The Line has been a remarkable source of pride to the Singular Art Award 2023 nominee, exemplifying Saudi’s responsibility towards the planet. On a personal level, his pursuit of becoming a prominent Saudi artist in LA underscores his commitment to showcasing the depth of Saudi culture.
Abdulrahman’s Saudi friends have been pillars of support, standing by him at crucial moments, such as when he received an international student award for extraordinary achievements from USC in 2021.
“Regardless of distance, our bonds remain strong. It’s this very pride that fuels me to excel as an artist and contribute to a brighter future for Saudi and the world.”
Celebrating Away from Home
In LA, the Saudi community marks occasions like Saudi National Day with different activities, traditional performances, music, and food – embodying the essence of the country’s diverse heritage.
A unique aspect of celebrating in LA compared to Saudi lies in the blend of cultures, serving as a reminder of the universal appeal of Saudi traditions, according to Abdulrahman.
“While celebrations abroad may differ in scale and presentation from those back home, they remain infused with the same deep-rooted sense of pride and nostalgia.”
Living abroad is full of invaluable life lessons, personal growth, and self-discovery for Abdulrahman. The experience of immersing himself in a different culture, navigating unfamiliar territories, and building connections has enriched his perspective.
Abdulrahman emphasises that the journey is a continuous process of self-discovery, opening doors to new worlds, viewpoints, and possibilities. He advises those travelling overseas to embrace new customs, step outside their comfort zones, and build connections with the local community to create a sense of belonging.
“Maintain a positive mindset while embracing challenges as opportunities to grow and learn.”