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3,001 Arabian Days: A Memoir
When I arrived in a desert airstrip in Saudi Arabia as a toddler in 1953, my dad was involved in creating there what would become history's largest and most consequential oil company. I had no idea as I grew up in a unique cocoon. It was simultaneously a breathtakingly exotic yet typically American childhood.
In this vivid memoir, Snedeker (Holy Smoke) recounts his childhood as a U.S. citizen living in Saudi Arabia. In 1953, Snedeker’s father relocated their five-person family to Dhahran, joining a growing community of Aramco employees. There, Snedeker and his siblings experienced an idyllic childhood, combining the best parts of suburban America with exposure to an exciting locale and culture. As an adult, Snedeker feels drawn to Saudi Arabia, and finds that many so-called “Aramco brats” feel the same way. When he moves back to the Dhahran area as an adult, he is surprised by what has changed since his youth—and what has remained exactly the same.

Snedeker offers evocative descriptions of Saudi Arabia, the Aramco neighborhood, and the cast of colorful expats populating the town. He examines his childhood with a measured hand, psychoanalyzing his relationship with his parents and assessing the ways his Saudi upbringing affects him as an adult. The prose is detailed; Snedeker proves expert at finding the interesting in the mundane. By focusing on the specifics of his upbringing (shooting straw wrappers at a diner ceiling, the acquisition of a new family blender, the setup of an alleyway kickball court), he presents a compelling vision of a bygone era, each anecdote alive with feeling.

Snedeker has lived in Saudi Arabia three separate times over the course of his life, though he primarily concentrates on his childhood years. This emphasis allows for a vivid and thorough depiction of that era, but it narrows the focus. Snedeker occasionally touches on intriguing cultural issues—such as the presence of servants in the Aramco camp, the changes in religious acceptance in Saudi Arabia, or post-9/11 relations—only to move quickly on. Still, as a snapshot of a particular moment in time, experienced through the eyes of a young American and also his engaging adult self, it’s a resounding success.

Takeaway: This detailed memoir, following a young American’s childhood in Saudi Arabia, is perfect for those interested in cross-cultural 1950s history.

Great for fans of: Tim Barger’s Arabian Son, Ahmed Abodehman’s The Belt.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A


"The author lucidly and often poetically conveys his remembrances in a series of brief, impressionistic anecdotes that reflect the gossamer quality of youthful recollection ... His commentary is remarkably insightful,and he has a gimlet eye for nuanced portraiture.... thoughtful and elegantly written ... marvelous black-and-white photographs." -- Kirkus Reviews
"Author Snedeker's wit and insights illuminate the book's easy narrative. His journalistic style faithfully recreates the people,places and events, and keeps the story crisp and moving from one chapter to the next. More than a coming of age story, 3,001Arabian Days is a moving tribute to the intricacies of family, a celebration of Saudi Arabian culture,and a glimpse into a time gone by, but whose shadowy specter you can still almost reach out and touch." - Mark Kennedy, Saudi Aramco writer/editor, Dhahran

"I thoroughly enjoyed this involving and enchanting period book about Arabia and America in (mostly) more innocent times of the '50s and early '60s.This memoir of mid-century life in Saudi Arabia, with all the weighty issues of oil, social taboos, expatriates, Wahhabism -- plus Little League baseball-- is documented herein a disarmingly humane, affectionate, and insightful manner by a son and kid brother who got it all first-hand over the Kingdom's and his own formative years."  -- Peter Theroux, author of" Sandstorm: Days and Nights in Arabia" (1991) and"Translating L.A." (1995)

"3,001 Arabian Days has everything a reader wants ina book, with a congenial narrator to lead you on an adventure in an exotic locale and in a lost era. While the book will be of special interest to those with a connection to the Arab world or to the oil business or ARAMCO, I had none of those and yet found myself charmed by the author's effortless storyteller's style. It is a book that is both an escape and an education." -- Dale Dauten, entrepreneur and author of "The Gifted Boss" and "The Max Strategy."