Life in the Camel Lane by Doreen M. Cumberford

Book Details:

Book Title:  Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure by Doreen M. Cumberford
Category:  Adult Non-Fiction (18 +),  288 pages
Genre:  Memoir
Publisher:  White Heather Press
Release date:   April, 2020
Format available for review:  print, mobi (for Kindle), Gifted Kindle, PDF
Will send print books out:  Internationally
Tour dates: August 24 to September 4, 2020
Content Rating:  G. There are no offensive scenes or language.

I highly recommend reading the really wonderful Guest Post and Interview with Doreen Cumberford. Especially if you want to know more about this book!

Book Description:

Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure
 is what Doreen Cumberford, a Scottish author, calls her learnoire! It is a combination of her story and the stories of other expats learned while living in Saudi Arabia for 15 years as expat employees or spouses. The book takes the reader through the four stages of culture shock: arrival, honeymoon, frustration and adjustment stages to final acceptance followed by the return journey back to their home country – mostly the USA. From Saudi weddings, to falconry, to the inability of women to drive at that time, the book seeks to familiarize us with the Saudi culture, lifestyle, and deep traditions of hospitality, generosity and tolerance from an insider’s perspective. There are also chapters on the experiences of 9/11 in the terrorists’ home country and the “Terror Years” of internal terror tactics from inside Saudi Arabia designed to drive the expats out of the country and destroy the Saudi government. Full of examples, stories and compelling honesty the author describes their most challenging journey and many of the lessons learned in the process together. Designed to provide useful insights and inspiration to anyone considering living abroad, Life in the Camel Lane shines the light on the subject of building a new identity and home while abroad, and the difficulties of the journey home.


Empty Nesting – Phooey!

In Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure, I described some of the feelings of loss and grief that I experienced when I returned from the US having placed my fifteen year-old daughter in boarding school.

One of the most courageous things I have ever done was send my only child to boarding school on the other side of the world.

Now this boarding school had been examined under the microscope, compared to about thirty others and we had visited schools in four countries before supporting Lynsey in making her choice – and it was clearly her choice.

Even though we had gone to these lengths to know that she was in the best possible place, the sensation of loss some days was staggering.   I carried it around inside my DNA the very cells of my body cried out for my only child.  

Today I have friends who are becoming empty nesters as their children have been dropped off at boarding schools or colleges around the country during this very unsettling time.   The protocols and procedures are striking with Covid-19 tests, isolation in tiny groups, social distancing rearing it’s head in the form of chairs placed six feet apart on a football field for opening ceremonies.  

Yes, it’s a very different time.   But the thing about empty nesters is that these nests are far from empty.  My friends will be returning to homes that are feel large and are missing the sounds and laughter of their kids today.   But when we are empty nesters we are still living in the same nest.   I think it’s a time to think contrarian, to do the opposite of what’s expected of us, to rebel a bit if that’s your thing.  

I remember it seemed to take me weeks to turn the page, but time turns the page slowly for us, on our behalf.   But when I did turn that page, I discovered all sorts of new activities and became busier than ever.    I tackled the house first.  I maintained two small part-time commitments to bring structure to my life.   I was a bus monitor, basically there to provide security to the kids on the bus and also I was the school photographer and yearbook editor.

My water aerobics, tai chi and spinning were all plugged into this structure.  

A few ideas for stabilizing yourself in your nest:

Make future plans for future reunions with the kids;

Take up a hobby that consumes your time and energy – something that expresses your longings and uses your talent – writing, painting, dancing, yoga!!

Reach out, build connections, develop a social life – even if it’s online.   Build courses, take Zoom trainings – whatever it takes – even in the age of Covid it can still be done.

Finally putting your focus on yourself, make YOU count, reconfigure and rebuild your nest around you and your preferences.  Yes, you are capable of processing these feelings while taking action.  May your nest become a sanctuary for you and a welcome rest-stop for your kids.


In Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure, Doreen Cumberford tell about her family living in Saudia Arabia for fifteen years. As I read this book, and even though there were so many struggles, I was still in awe of how they adapted so well with this culture. It is interesting how she describes the women of this culture and how she found unique ways to interact with them, especially since the freedom of woman is far from what it is in the US. I can’t even imagine how different it was to be in this situation, the culture shock from living in the US and starting a life in a country such as Saudia Arabia. But yet for me I think it would be fun to live among these people, learning their way of life, and meeting these ladies that will teach so much about their culture. But since I can’t so that, I loved reading about it in this special book. And I am so grateful to this author for writing this book. Her vivid descriptions of Saudia Arabia and it’s people are so well crafted, it made me feel like I was there, living the life with them. This is a book I plan to keep for a good while, just to pick up and read through some of the parts that are special to me.

And oh, I can’t forget about awesome cover. I love the camel, the sand, the sunset, it is all so beautiful. Camels always fascinate me, and I love this cute little fellow on the cover. If you want to read a book that’s a bit different, for me anyway, and gives you perfect insight into another part of our world, I recommend this book for you! You can read it all at once, or just a little at a time. But most of all you will enjoy your trip to Saudia Arabia!

A special thanks to the author/publisher for a copy of this book. I am not required to write a positive review, the opinions here are mine alone. I am disclosing this with my review in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.


What is your next project?

My next project is “Home Again, Home Again, Jiggedy Jig….A Guidebook to

Returning Home Well After Living Overseas”

For people who have never moved overseas and then returned home, this book might seem redundant.  After all what is there to be done other than packing, putting your body on an airplane and disembarking at the destination – right? – sorry wrong answer!

In this case reality is so far from the truth that we might as well start by speaking another planetary language.  The subject of Repatriation is wide and deep.  A variety of people are affected by international moves, including, but not limited to, the military, State Department employees, Non-Government Organizations, Charities, Corporations, Peace Corps, Global Nomads and location-independent populations.

Home Again, Home Again will be a combination of stories of people who have moved home and suffered through the challenges of Re-entry, and is designed to give people a coping system by which to manage the process and recreate a new adventure back home.   

This book will contain exercises, questions and processes by which Returnees can process

their overseas experience and ultimately build happier transitions.  The longing to reverse course and move back overseas to what had become familiar and natural is common.

My purpose in creating this work is to document my stories and the stories of others who have walked this path and unveiled the hidden gems along the way.  It’s also my heart’s strongest desire to support this community during these transitions with love and grace.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia forbids the sale and use of alcoholic beverages.  How did you get along without it?

We did not do without.  We just adapted, like all good expats do.  This short article explains how we coped with the alcohol prohibition.  As a preface to this story, you must be aware that corporations employing western expats have dispensations from the government allowing them the freedom to make alcoholic beverages, but not to sell or transport it, even within the western compounds.

Memories of the Blue Flame

Back in the 1970’s some creative soul, a chemical engineer probably, wrote a document that was to become part of the holy grail of Aramco history.   The Blue Flame has become legendary in many circles.   Because Saudi Arabia has very strict laws regarding the production, drinking and possession of alcohol, the Blue Flame is an instructive manual on how to produce booze effectively at home.  

Most of our homes had garages with an extra space, like a storeroom, except it was built with cinder blocks and was reinforced with a drain in the floor.   Air conditioning and water hook ups were piped into this room.  

The natural ingredients for booze, or siddiqi (meaning friend in Arabic) were easily available at all grocery stores and even at the Commissary on the compound.   Many people had their own stills and a built-in sales business.    

While we didn’t own a still, we were able to buy the raw siddiqi.  We also purchased and imported flavored wood chips which we would toast in the oven then soak in the raw liquor for weeks or months, or until at least the next party or occasion.  This created a kind of flavor liquor similar to American whiskey.   Many of these beverages were delicious and to this day many Aramcons prefer their “brown” to commercially made liquor back home.   

In our household we tried our hand at winemaking.  This was in my opinion a grand failure.   About one out of every three bottles was reasonably drinkable, our reds were barley palatable, it was always a delightfully serendipitous moment when we managed to achieve a good wine.

Champagne, now that’s another story.   My husband applied himself more to brewing champagne than any other beverage and he was reasonably accomplished with it.  The recipe was simple, basically sugar, yeast, grape juice and water.  Each bottle was encased in a plastic grocery store bag in case of an explosion.

Yes, explosions were frequent.  The bottling factory was under the sink in our daughter’s bathroom, we occasionally heard pow – pow in the middle of the night.   We all learned to quickly go back to sleep.

There are layers of folklore, expat culture and history involved in the manufacturing and consumption of alcohol within the Kingdom.  Over time the original people who wrote the Blue Flame have assumed almost mythical proportions, the recipes, methods and advice has been handed down across the Aramco generations.

We frequently had fund raisers for one of the “morale groups,” another name for faith or religious groups who gathered on campus – another occupation which was banned out in the communities but tolerated and indeed facilitated by Aramco.   Someone had offered up a huge glass paperweight in the form of a blue flame, along with an original copy of the Blue Flame booklet.  It was approximately seven inches tall on a five inch wide base.   I was flabbergasted that it was auctioned off for the princely sum of five thousand dollars….here was someone who really put a great deal of stock in company traditions.  

The closest I ever got to using the Blue Flame was copying a few recipes from probably twenty something year old copies; I might even have them somewhere in my memorabilia.  I tried a few liqueurs which were relatively tasty.  Homemade amaretto was made with almond essence, kalua used melted mars bars with coffee, Baileys was made by melting chocolate bars and adding condensed milk, vanilla and chocolate.

Many of us look back fondly on these deprivations and laugh about the amount of time and energy we spent circumventing the rules and the joy of rebelliousness.  Without those hardships the entire lifestyle might have been dull, with them it was anything but!

Do you ever get writer’s block?  What helps overcome it?

Oh yes baby!  I have three remedies for writer’s block.

I am a huge believer in movement, both physically and emotionally.   One of the best ways for me to jump-start my thinking and there my writing is to physically go somewhere.   I can be bicycling, walking, hiking, paddle-boarding or playing pickleball and I think much more clearly during and after the activity.   

I am obviously a big believer in travel.   Be it by ship, airplane, car or my personal favorite – train.   

Growing up in Scotland I started traveling by train as a little girl.  My Mum would take me on a real steam engine (1960’s) to see my grandma every Monday down in Dumbarton.   I remember the pulsing pure excitement as I held her hand and walked down the Queen Street Station in Glasgow.  The great iron horse of a train would be belching, blasting and erupting steam.   I would be terrified, until we boarded the train and set off.

A change of environment, an external stimulant or a piece of music, all of these can work to jog our memories and our brains which helps with writing.  

On a Friday morning I am to be found in a speed writing group with women from all over Europe.   I love this group.   The different voices, vocabulary and turns of phrase really help me get in touch with the English language on a differing frequency.  Keeping our vocabulary tuned up and growing really helps us as writers to capture the ideas and concepts we would love to convey.

Finally, running water.   Sitting by a river, lake or stream – in fact any body of water, instantly helps me get into a better gear in life.  I do believe in the concept of flow.   Here’s a recipe, if you are at home, feeling jaded just run some water over some misshapen objects in the sink.  Next, close your eyes and let your mind drift….I bet something will happen, if nothing else you will get to laugh at yourself and laughter is also a terrific energy booster.

Here’s to your success in overcoming writer’s or any other block you might have.

If you could ask one successful author three questions about their writing, writing process, or books, what would they be?

One of my dreams is to sit down and have an afternoon tea party with J. K. Rowling.

Growing up in Scotland I can clearly see the threads of culture, language and imagination that tied together J. K. Rowling’s books.  I have ridden real steam engine trains, spent time in Victorian railway stations, and so many time walked the streets of Edinburgh as she did.  But I have never sat down with a very famous live author to have a conversation, and I believe that Rowling and I would have much to chat about.  

I have drunk tea in The Elephant House in Edinburgh, now famous because Rowling wrote there frequently.  The café itself is a bit nondescript from the outside, but inside it’s like being on a scavenger hunt for Rowling and her thought process.  

Like thousands of cafes in Scotland, The Elephant House serves the usual fare of sturdy breakfasts, amazing cakes and several authors like Alexander McCall Smith all found solace in this place.   I am a big believer in how place affects writing and, naturally, like the thousands of other authors who have sat in that atmosphere, I wondered if I could possibly channel such brilliance.   

Edinburgh can be a “dreich”, meaning dull or dreadfully gloomy and usually associated with rain tipping down.  I imagine that Rowling sat there for many a day tenaciously writing, building images, concepts and even yes, magic into her books for hours.

I would ask her how she held onto her vision for all those years.   She shopped her book around to twelve publishers and suffered dissuasion, discouragement and I am betting some distraction along the way.   Yet, she is the very epitome of a real author who held onto her dream, lived fully into her vision and ultimately triumphed.  

Any hobbies? or Name a quirky thing you like to do.

The Joys of Pet and Housesitting

My husband and I love to pet and housesit!   My husband retired in 2015 and shortly afterwards we decided to take a few trips.   At the time we had a dog and we explored and found housesitters, which led to us asking the question “could we do this” and “where would we love to go”?  Voila, a new revived passion for travel combined with a mission to serve became our next perfect adventure.  

Four years later we have traveled to ten countries to pet and housesit for people for more than 500 days.   We have thoroughly enjoyed meeting individuals we would never normally come across in our daily lives.  The fabulous pets we have encountered have brought us so much joy not to mention health and entertainment.  

Last year, 2019, we spent six weeks in Mexico, then one month in Hawaii.  When we arrived back home we started to pare down our belongings and after a crazy six week purge, we rented our home and off we went for a five month trip to Europe.

We spent over a month in Spain, Belgium, France and almost two months back to my home in Scotland and England.  In total we completed six long housesits in these countries taking care of dogs, cats, fish, gardens and one Fred, a robotic lawn mower.  

After returning home, with our house still rented, we took off for San Miguel de Allende, Mexico where we housesat for three months before Covid set in.  

Misplaced on the Mexican side of the border, while it closed, and airlines stopped flying left us with no alternative but to be patient.   We rented a house and a car and enjoyed an unexpected four extra months in Mexico for a total of seven months.  

Housesitting has the potential to take us around the globe in the future, however for the moment we are parked safely at home in Denver, Colorado for the next four or five months due to Covid-19 restrictions, quarantine and no-fly policies, and then back to places unknown.  

The pet sitting homes have varied from 15th Century manors in the south of England, to straw-bale houses in Durango, Colorado and everything in between.   We have cared for a wide variety of historical properties in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and across the south of England.

Last year alone we took care of a historical bungalow in Mexico, a modern condominium in Hawaii, an Edwardian maisonette in London and Victorian, Georgian and Edwardian homes across the UK.   We enjoy the variety and the stimulation that this lifestyle provides.

Stay tuned for the next book which will be a documentation of our adventures of Life in the Housesitting Lane!

How does the writing process work for you? Do you schedule a time every day, work madly when inspiration hits or ? 

I meet with a group of other writers twice a week, at 6:00 a.m. in the morning on Mondays and Thursdays.   Believe me, it’s sometimes a chore and I have been known to skip on cold Colorado winter mornings, but generally for the last five years you will find me on a Zoom call with fellow authors twice a week.

Currently, my most favorite writing time is on a Friday morning with I meet with my speed writing group.  This group is a very disparate group of women.  We are differing nationalities:  one gal is Singaporean but lives in DC, one gal is English and lives in the Netherlands, one gal lives on the Isle of Man, another gal is French living in Germany and I am Scottish living in Colorado.   

We choose really simple prompts, write for ten minutes then listen and offer praise.  The turn of phrase, together with the wild and visceral writing complete with a vocabulary that could fill several dictionaries emerges through these women’s voices.   I hear language and content in an

environment that I could never recreate here in Colorado.  

This is my most favorite and fun writing every single week.

As an author – what do you enjoy most about writing process? What feels like a chore?

I enjoy the moments of inspiration. When that idea lands and seems to explode with energy and delight – that’s my favorite moment in the writing process.  I do also enjoy the excuse to sit by a stream, a river, a lake – or pretty much any body of water, with a purpose.  Flowing water helps my words flow onto a page.

My least favorite is the tedious part of editing, then re-editing and the process of moving large pieces of text around.  I find that I lose my place when moving pieces of text and large swaths of writing and I need the help of a terrific editor to partner with me on those tasks.

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About the Author

Doreen Cumberford is a Scottish expat author who has been global traveler for more than four decades. In her 20s Doreen left her home in Scotland and drove down to London to become a member of Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Her first posting was as the youngest and most junior British Embassy staffer in Cameroon, West Africa. Later she moved back to London and took a position with an American oil-field construction company based in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. After moving to America, living in Louisiana then California, two extremely different cultures in the USofA, Doreen and family moved overseas to Japan then spent the following 15 years in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. With 13 major moves under her belt, she understands the value of moving, building a new life and handling inter-cultural hurdles. One constant has been her ability to explore through the lens of adventure. Her stories are full of multi-cultural intelligence, messy multilingual communications and multi-global perspectives. Doreen is currently based on Denver, Colorado although spends most of the year living adventurously in the Housesitting Lane, which takes her around the globe. Currently she is doing her best to install Spanish in her brain which previously had French and smatterings of Japanese and Arabic. She is passionate about cultural intelligence, global heartedness and life on the road. Featured in the Anthology: Empowering Women, and a co-author in 2018 of Arriving Well: Stories About Identity, Belonging and Rediscovering Home After Living Abroad. 2020 sees the publication of Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure. Honest, compassionate, full of wisdom and inspiration, Life in the Camel Lane comprises stories mostly from women and men who lived in Saudi Arabia from 1950s onward. This memoir contains expert advice sage wisdom and stories that all globally mobile families can use to navigate their international journey. The principles in this book will also encourage anyone who is embracing a more adventurous life, or considering taking the leap to move overseas.

.Connect with the Author:  website  ~ twitter  ~ facebook  ~  pinterest  ~ instagram  ~ goodreads

.Tour Schedule:

Aug 24 – Working Mommy Journal – book review / giveaway
Aug 24 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book review / giveaway
Aug 25 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – book review / guest post / giveaway
Aug 25 – Over Coffee Conversations – book review / giveaway
Aug 26 – Splashes of Joy – book review / guest post / author interview / giveaway
Aug 26 – DZA’s blog – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Aug 27 – Sefina Hawke’s Books – book review
Aug 28 – Literary Flits – book review / giveaway
Aug 31 – Reading is My Passion – book review
Aug 31 – Books for Books – book review
Sep 1 – Jazzy Book Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Sep 1 – Pick a Good Book – book review / author interview / giveaway
Sep 1 – Library of Clean Reads – book spotlight / giveaway
Sep 2 – A Mama’s Corner of the World – book review / giveaway
Sep 2 – Alexis Marie Chute Blog – book review / author interview / giveaway
Sep 3 – StoreyBook Reviews – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Sep 3 – So Fine Print – book review / author interview / giveaway
Sep 4 – fundinmental – book spotlight / giveaway
Sep 4 – Books and Zebras @jypsylynn – book review
Sept 4 – Olio by Marilyn – book review / giveaway
Sep 4 – Dreamidge – book review / author interview.

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