Meet Ammar, Saudi Arabia’s master of puppets
Ammar Aidarous Al Sabban had a lucrative job as an architect at a reputable firm in Jeddah — which he hated.
And, when he felt that he could “no longer meet his full potential as an architect,” Al Sabban quit his job of 11 years to pursue his dream of becoming a puppeteer.
In Saudi Arabia, puppeteering is still an unknown art form.
“There are just a handful of Saudi puppeteers. A lot of people don’t know what it is, and those who know don’t accept it. Its an uphill battle for us,” he says.
The 39-year-old Saudi national told Gulf News that he wanted to be a puppeteer since he was a child.
“I remember I was only 5 years old and I wanted to become a cartoon character. I grew up watching Bugs Bunny and Sesame Street and I really wanted to be in that world,” he said.
Despite the passion, it was such an unconventional career path that Al Sabban never got around to pursuing it after high school.
In 2013, when Al Sabban’s wife, Dr. Bedour Essam, received a scholarship from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) to pursue a doctorate in chemistry, he decided it was the right time to try his luck at puppetry.
Al Sabban, who was already bored and unhappy with his job, took the opportunity to quick his day job, in order to focus on his passion and stay home with the couple’s three children.
The couple gave themsevles a three-year windown during which Essam would finish her doctorate and Al Sabban could puruse a career in pupptetry.
“If by the end of three years it didn’t work out, I would go back to architecture,” Al Sabban said.
He credited his wife for always supporting and believing in his dream where others did not see how such a career could be lucrative—even his parents.
While he eventually succeeded, it was a bumpy road to get there.
Since the puppetry market did not exist in Saudi Arabia, Al Sabban had to create work for himself.
He watched YouTube and behind-the-scene videos online to learn the ropes of puppeteering.