10 things Americans may not know about Saudi Arabia

10 things Americans may not know about Saudi Arabia


Todd Holmstrom, US Consul General in Jeddah

1. The Kingdom is home to superlatives: Highest Water Fountain, Tallest Flag Pole, Biggest Outdoor Television Screen…and, soon, the World’s Largest Sky Scraper!

2. There is a lot to see and do in Saudi Arabia. Madain Saleh, which I and my family visited earlier this year, is equally beautiful but not as well known in the US as the famous Petra ruins in Jordan once inhabited by the same ancient Nabataean civilization. In my travels around the Kingdom, I’ve enjoyed sights as varied as the dramatic desert landscapes near Al-Ula, the coral reefs of the Red Sea, and the mountainous terrain of Baha and Abha.

3. Wedding ceremonies are colorful affairs, which are held separately for men and women.

4. There are more American restaurant chains in Jeddah than in my home area of Michigan. Americans might expect to see McDonalds and Starbucks, but they are often surprised to find Fuddruckers, Shake Shack, and On The Border here in Jeddah.

5. Everything closes during each of the five salats (prayers).

6. Women represent the fastest growing sector of the Saudi workforce. And they are increasingly involved in shaping every aspect of Saudi life.

7. A greater percentage of the Kingdom’s population uses social media than Americans.

8. Young people want to own their own businesses.  When I ask Saudi students what they want to become after graduating, the word I hear most commonly is “entrepreneur”.

9. Saudi Arabia follows a lunar calendar.

10. There are more than 14 different varieties of Saudi dates available and they are all delicious and healthful.

Todd Holmstrom“Todd Holmstrom is a senior career member of the US Foreign Service and arrived to Jeddah in the summer of 2014. Prior to this appointment, he served as deputy chief of mission in N’Djamena, Chad from 2011 to 2013.

From 2005 to August 2008, Holmstrom spent three years in Damascus where he served sequentially as economic counselor, chief of the political/economic section, and as acting DCM for his last year at the US Embassy. His Washington service includes being the deputy director of the State Department’s Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs (2008 to 2010), a desk officer, and a special assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State. His other Foreign Service postings include Tunis, Ottawa, and Paramaribo.

Prior to joining the Foreign Service in November 1995, Holmstrom served in the US Army and was deployed overseas to the Balkans, Somalia, the Sinai of Egypt, Honduras and Germany.

Holmstrom is married and has four children. He speaks Arabic, French, and Dutch. Holmstrom received his BA from Northern Michigan University, and his MS from the National War College.”


  1. When I lived in Saudi Arabia there was one questionable American restaurant and that was KFC. I am a bit jealous that all these options are available now but then again I don’t think I would have had the rich experience of learning the culture if I was able to resort to a cheeseburger and fries from Fuddruckers or McDonalds. I still dream about Al-Baik Garlic Sauce.