Homeward Bound: Why Al Khobar will always be home for our lifestyle editor

Homeward Bound: Why Al Khobar will always be home for our lifestyle editor

Hailing from Saudi’s Eastern Province, List editor Dalia Darweesh takes us on a road trip through Al Khobar, sharing deep-rooted connections that forever bind her to this coastal gem
24 April 24

My story actually began in Jubail, an industrial city in the Eastern Province, where I spent my formative years until the age of 11. Fond memories come flooding back of carefree days at my kindergarten’s playground and afternoons spent fishing with my dad, may he rest in peace.

During that time, our family weekends were often spent in Al Khobar. I eagerly awaited those days, as it meant exploring Khobar Corniche and Azizia Beach, where I enjoyed horseback riding, games, buggy rides, and delicious treats from ice cream and balila trucks.

We’d also take a short drive to Dammam to visit its Heritage Village, which is both a traditional Saudi museum and a restaurant. And on some weekends, we even ventured to the archipelago nation of Bahrain, for a change of scenery.

Shaped by Al Khobar

When I turned 11, my family relocated to Al Khobar, and this vibrant city is where my love for English literature blossomed.

Every couple of months, my parents would take me to Jarir, a bookstore overlooking Khobar Corniche. I would spend hours there, carefully selecting the perfect book. As I devoured tomes at a rapid pace, our visits became monthly rituals. I also found joy in expressing myself through writing English poetry, a talent I inherited from my mother (who was an artist and bard) and a skill that would later shape my career.

When I grew older, I left to the US, where I spent six years split between Alabama and California for study and work. I graduated from the University of Alabama with a bachelor’s degree in business management and a minor in human resources management.

However, when it was time to return to the Kingdom, fate led me back home to Al Khobar, to an internship opportunity at a local lifestyle magazine. Within three months, I assumed the role of fashion editor, fulfilling a dream I’ve had since middle school. As I advanced in the publishing industry, I explored diverse topics, from food, travel, and business, to even oil and gas. The more I wrote, the more my curiosity deepened.

It was during this time I honed my skills in understanding my interviewees on a deeper level. This allowed me to discover the remarkable stories and journeys of Saudi women, and to understand how much their narratives played a role in shaping my perspective and fuelling my love for storytelling.

In 2020, I realised a long-held dream by founding the first modelling agency in Al Khobar, a vision that had taken root when a model scout discovered me in 2010. Three years later, I was recognised by Fast Company Middle East as one of its Most Creative People in Business in 2023. I attribute this achievement to Al Khobar for nurturing my curiosity and desire to challenge the status quo, ultimately driving me towards this milestone achievement.

Rediscovering Home

Despite now living in Riyadh, I still find myself drawn back to Al Khobar whenever the opportunity arises. One of my favourite spots is still Khobar Corniche, the site of my childhood love for books, and where I now go to when I have writer’s block. It’s perfect for a leisurely stroll, grabbing coffee, sitting and taking in the lovely beach, even picnicking.

I also enjoy spending time at Khobar City Walk for its wide array of restaurants and cafés. For shopping, I always go for convenience, so you’ll probably find me at one of the city’s iconic spots, like Al Rashid Mall. When it comes to specific venues, a favourite haunt of mine is a cosy café called Sunday Night, just a short drive from my home in Al Khobar. It’s my go-to when I’m working on new articles.

And when I miss my days in the US, I head over to Seven, a brunch place that serves a personal favourite of mine during my time in Alabama – chicken and waffles. On days when I feel like wandering aimlessly, I love to explore the streets of my childhood home. I enjoy visiting its old neighbourhoods, admiring its urban art, such as the impressive murals along Al Khobar’s Graffiti Art MK Street, or simply seeing the friendly faces of locals and residents, reminding me of the warmth and kindness of this city.

While I may have relocated to the capital, Sharqiya – the Eastern Province – will always hold a special place in my heart. This is my home, where I grew up, and where everyone I love remains. It’s a place that has truly shaped me into the person I am today. I am grateful to God, and to my parents for their role in my life’s journey.

All images of Dalia with thanks to Osama Jaberti

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Dalia Darweesh drove around Al Khobar in a Lexus IS 300, courtesy of Abdul Latif Jameel Motors.