Zahid Jamal grew up as an expat in Jeddah. Having developed an interest in the Urdu language, and hosting shows at school, he went on to not only become a successful chartered accountant with one of the Big Four firms, but also moonlights as an RJ with UK-based Bindas Radio.
In this interview he chats to Jeddah Blog about what it was like growing up in Jeddah, his career, passion for working in radio and his feelings about the city he once called home.
Tell us about your connection to Jeddah.
I grew up in the streets of Al-salama, Al-Rowda and then Al-Aziziah in Jeddah where I was raised as Zahid Jamal. I saw Jeddah transforming from old to new in the 90s and have seen all the new extravagant structures constructed in front of my eyes. Although I hail from Karachi, I consider myself more a Jeddawi.
Living as an expat in Jeddah, how did you manage to forge a connection with your home country, and especially to the Urdu language?
I was educated at the Pakistan International School Jeddah(PISJ), in Aziziah, spending the usual weekends picnicking in Obhur, beach resorts and playlands like Bahra-tul-Qatar – an oldie would know what I am talking about here. Living in Saudi Arabia, but studying in a Pakistani school and learning to be more Pakistani is one of the phases which every expat would have gone through in KSA. I also went through this phase where I was made a Pakistani in a Pakistani school, as we used to travel on Pakistani passport to and from Pakistan.
We were lucky enough to have watched the Pakistani drama called Tanhaiyan on Saudi Channel 2 in Ramadan, and this was when I was first introduced to Pakistani dramas. My Urdu language skills improved further as I watched not only more Pakistani drams but Moin Akhtar and Anwar Maqsood on PTV (Pakistan’s national television channel). This gave me an opportunity in my school to imitate Moin Akhtar, and I began hosting events at my school. My Urdu teacher once told me to try out for an audition in Radio Pakistan due to my voice and the level of Urdu he recognized in me.
From hosting events at school, how were you introduced to the world of radio?
In 2003, I completed high school and left for Karachi to study chartered accountancy. I realized that Radio Pakistan was an old phenomenon in Pakistan and it was now FM radio stations taking the youth by storm, so I used to listen to the radio while studying for the most complex studies in CA.
In 2006, when I successfully cleared my exams, my passion of hosting and public speaking took me to knock on the doors of those FM stations and ask for an audition. Luckily, there was an upcoming station, HOT FM 105 whose office I spotted by chance as no one knew it would be airing soon. So I went in, gave an audition and was selected. Finally Zahid Jamal transformed into ZJ, as I was neither a qualified RJ nor a DJ, hence I was simply ZJ.
Tell us about your reasons for returning to Jeddah?
I worked in radio for two years while completing my CA articleship with one of the Big Four audit firms, Ernst & Young in Karachi and this was the time when I got a good job offer from E&Y in Jeddah in 2008. I bid farewell to the FM radio in Karachi and decided to return due to the unstable security situation in Pakistan, and my parents living in Jeddah.
From being an expat in one country to another. You then moved on to the UK. What led you there?
I continued my efforts in the E&Y Jeddah office, and joined British online radio, so that I could fulfill my passion in the not-so-bachelor-friendly Saudi Arabia.
In 2010, I was offered a position in E&Y London which I accepted happily due to the reason of being called an expat even when I have spent my entire life in Jeddah. I will always need permission to live there, so I decided to leave Jeddah and settle in London when I had an offer from my own company.
I now work in E&Y London office as an executive auditor and do online radio as an extracurricular activity.
Any old memories of Jeddah you would like to share? What do you miss about this city?
I love Jeddah. Jeddah represents me; it’s global and modern, but the Islamic lifestyle is what I carry wherever I go. It gave me the confidence to work and grow up living and interacting with different nationalities. I miss Ramadan in Jeddah and the food. I call it food heaven; halal food at a reasonable price. Who can forget to mention Al Baik? – always top of my list when I visit Jeddah from time to time.
Due to obvious reasons, it’s not easy for single and young professionals to work and live a lifestyle they want in Jeddah. I assume life is much easier for married couples, especially now that women have started working alongside men, although it’s very hard for expat women to find a job other than teaching.
Also, I don’t see a platform for expats living in KSA to voice their opinions and experiences about the usual life matters they are going through. I found Jeddah blog very useful myself, and I guess Bindas Radio would give another platform to the people living in KSA, especially Jeddah, due to my presence at the radio to share their experiences with the rest of the world.
Tell us about Bindas.
Bindas Radio is a British online radio which is managed from Canada and the UK. We are broadcasting live globally and can be reached through our website . You can also download our app and then we will just be a click away from you. We have RJs from Canada, Saudi Arabia and the UK. We have some more to come from other parts of the world. You can also find us on Tunein which is a radio stations application to listen to any radio in the world.
Although we are playing more Urdu/Hindi content these days, we have international radio presenters, and based on our listenership we will start focusing more on English and maybe even Arabic if there is a demand from listeners. Anyone can listen to our radio.
We are in the startup phase currently and we are coming up with some excellent ideas which will be more beneficial to our listeners. Fingers crossed, there will be much more happening on the airwaves on Bindas.
Dont forget to tune into my shows every Sunday from 3pm – 5pm (GMT) and every Wednesday from 10pm-12midnight (GMT). Keep it locked, keep it Bindas!
You can also follow Zahid via Twitter and Facebook.