Where in the world is Abdullah Al Jumah?
Abdullah Al Jumah is a self-proclaimed Saudi ‘flashpacker’ who spends his time traveling around the world and posting about his experiences all over social media.
The published author and adventurer, Abdullah is the current Middle East ambassador for the Drive de Cartier watch. Having previously appeared on the British TV documentary Rich Kids of Instagram, Abdullah is also in the midst of filming his very own ‘flashpacking’ television series aimed specifically at holiday goers from the Gulf and writing his next book on his travels in America.
An obviously busy man, but Abdullah had time to call Esquire to talk travel, culture, and his precious down-time.
Where in the world are you right now?
I'm home actually, in Riyadh. I've been on the road, so to speak, for about 18 months now, so this is the first time I've been at home for more than a week!
You've obviously developed this relationship with Cartier. How did that first sort of come about?
Well, I was initially approached by an agent in Dubai asking me if I was willing to work with a luxury brand. And I'm always cautious about this sort of thing because I only want to associate myself with a brand or company that shares the same values as I do. But when Cartier came about I didn't actually have to consider it for too long. Because, well, it's Cartier after all.
What do you think drives you as an individual and makes you so in sync with Cartier's ambition?
What drives me is the commitment to pursue my dreams and see all that the world has to offer. And I think that Cartier reflects this in their great history and their own commitment to quality over the years.
Moving from one time-zone to the next must be pretty difficult. I guess having a watch will come in handy in times like this.
[Laughs] It’s definitely a must-have. But I also like to think of the watch as not just as an item that tells the time, but also as a representative of the symbolic value of time. It constantly reminds me that I need to live for the moment.
Judging by your Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, it seems you've been all over the world. Do you agree with the adage that 'Travel broadens the mind'?
Definitely. But I think it also depends on the person. If a person is willing to leave their comfort zone and open up their mind to all these new experiences, then travel can be a fantastic way to see the world from a variety of different perspectives. However, if you go in with a close-minded attitude to other people’s cultures and traditions you will learn nothing.
Where did you last feel outside of your comfort zone?
There's been a lot of times actually. One that stands out is when I went to Suriname and I lived in a jungle with a local tribe. I was literally alone staying with the chief of the tribe in his jungle cottage. I remember the entire ceiling was full of all sorts of animals and insects. That was definitely out of my comfort zone but I couldn’t do anything about it or risk insulting the chief, so I just enjoyed the moment and learned as much as possible from the experience. I'm not sure if it's something I'll ever do again to be honest, but at least I learnt that I’m not a fan of sleeping in jungles!
You've written a book called 'Tales of a Saudi in Europe', what was the most surprising thing you found about European culture?
I would think it would have to be the sheer range of cultures on offer. Even though we often view Europe as this collective continent and entity, each country within it is so drastically diverse. Even different cities had entirely different sort of outlooks on life.
Is there's anything that your homeland could learn from Europe?
Yes, I certainly think there are some things they could learn. European countries generally have an amazing education system, which is something we in Saudi Arabia are lacking just ever so slightly. We're not a big country in terms of population, but if you compare us to other countries in Europe who share a similar sized population, then I think the potential for quality education could be much higher.
On the other hand, do you think there's anything that Europe could learn from Saudi Arabia?
That's an interesting question. I think Saudis generally like to enjoy life a little more, they take things easy, and there's a lot more of a sense of a tangible community here. I lived in Europe for over five years and I think that’s something which is missing. There's a lot of individualism, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I think it's important to have a supportive family and to feel that you belong to part of a larger community. It would also be great if they could learn from the weather! But I don't think that will be possible!
The Bedouin people were traditionally nomadic and constantly travelled from place to place. Do you think your sense of adventure has been somewhat influenced by this heritage?
I think at the end of the day all humans are nomads really. But growing up from this tradition where my great grandparents would travel on camels to trade between places like Turkey and Palestine has certainly had an impact. My mum would always mention that her grandfather had travelled the world for about four years and she always encouraged me to do the same and follow my passion. It runs in the blood I guess.
You refer to yourself as a 'flashpacker', and in fact, you're doing a new travel TV series about it. What exactly is 'flashpacking'?
It's basically backpacking with style. You backpack normally during the day but you stay in luxury during the night. I prefer flashpacking because it's a totally different experience. It's exposed me to so many different styles of travel, and I’m really trying to promote this idea in the region. I think it especially suits a lot of people in the Middle East who are apprehensive about “roughing it” in other parts of the world. I mean, a lot of people want to see the world but they're not keen to sleep in places like the Suriname jungle! Flashpacking is the perfect solution to that.
Do you think there's ever going to be a time in your life where you just settle down in one location?
Yes, I think I will eventually. I'm very open to where I settle though. I'm not necessarily going to settle here in Saudi or even in Spain where I currently live, but I would make sure the place I do choose is somewhere I can still evolve and grow as a person. There’s nothing worse in life than standing still.