Connect with us

Travel & Tourism

CNN’s Destination explores Saudi Arabia’s growing tourism industry



In a half hour Destination show, CNN visits Saudi Arabia to see a country full of contrasts and change that is preserving the past while embracing a new modern era as tourism increases.

Along the Tuwaiq mountain range is Jebel Fihrayn, known as the Edge of the World. The influx of tourists to the area have transformed what was a hobby for local tour guide Faisal Almshari into a full-time business. “We started the company in 2018. We start with 5-10 people, only on a Friday, and after a few weeks the numbers start to go up to 50 people. And now we are operating every day trips for more than 200 people per week from everywhere in the world,” he explains.

Almshari says that the growing tourism industry has changed his life, “I started just to show my friends, not for business. But now it has changed a lot of things in my life.” He continues, “The government is investing a lot in tourism, and I think there is a good future for the tourism here.”

Born and raised in Jeddah, award-winning filmmaker Ayman Idriss Tamano takes CNN on a tour of the oldest part of the city Al-Balad. “Al Balad has always been home for a lot of artists. This is where you’re gonna find your own tribe. This is where you’re gonna find a place where you can thrive and hone the necessary skills that you need to master your craft. This place is a home for you,” he says.

Tamano describes how this historical affinity for the arts is shaping the area’s future, “Balad has always been a place where we were comfortable with expressing our creativity. And it’s very nice to see that it’s actually growing into something more official and regulated now. The Red Sea Film Festival, for instance, was first held in Al-Balad. And you have the MDLBEAST, that was also held in Al-Balad.”

Since 2019, when festivals were first licenced in Saudi Arabia, MDLBEAST has grown to attract more than a million people to its events. Tamano speaks about its future and its impact on the region, “We no longer feel like we draw that much inspiration from references from Western music. There’s a lot of focus on what we have internally. So it’s like we just realised we have culture. In 10 years what would be cool is to have like a new sound to what Saudi music actually is. It’s like now there’s Western music, but now there’s like our music and it competes at the same level. That for me is the dream.”

Off the coast of Jeddah is the Red Sea. Marine biologist and scuba instructor Tom Slough moved back to Saudi Arabia two years ago to help develop diving tourism in the country. He speaks about his role, “This a place that has not really had tourism. People haven’t had the chance to visit here, the Red Sea. People have visited places like Egypt. So why not come to somewhere that has the same to offer, if not better, because of the lack of previous tourism.”

Slough talks about why the Red Sea is especially good for diving, “There’s some incredible areas of healthy coral, a real diverse array of marine life from fish species, crustaceans, dolphins, whales, sharks. I found a bigger diversity here than I have most places in the world that I’ve been diving.”

Slough believes that setting up a new diving industry means that they can implement marine conservation and sustainability from the start. He explains, “We can start it with an understanding of what’s gone wrong in other countries now where there’s often a lot of tourists and a lot of diving tourism, you end up ruining reefs. So, we can start with eco sustainable tourism and start it the right way. Education is key for the future. So, we are really trying to educate people into understanding how important our ocean system is. We want young Saudis to come in. We train them up, educate them, get their love for the ocean out there.”

Destination airs on CNN International at the following times:

Saturday 6th May 2023 at 23:00 GST

Sunday 7th May 2023 at 05:30 GST, 08:30 GST and 21:00 GST

Monday 8th May 2023 at 07:00 GST



Industry17 mins ago

“And Just Like That” Season 2 Drops Exclusively on OSN+ on 22 June

OSN, the region’s leading TV entertainment company for premium, must-see content, is excited to announce the highly anticipated return of...

Developments26 mins ago

Dubai south properties appoints GINCO general contracting to develop south Bay

Dubai South Properties announced the appointment of Ginco General Contracting for a significant contract valued at AED 1 billion for...

Gadgets & Technology34 mins ago

Mindware Partners with OneSpan to Help Protect MEA Organizations from Digital Fraud

Mindware, a leading value-added distributor (VAD) in the Middle East and Africa, announced today its partnership with OneSpan, the digital...

Events & Happenings40 mins ago

Candlelight Concert Series presents Rings & Dragons in Dubai

Fever brings the multi-sensory musical experience to awe-inspiring locations like never seen before

Events & Happenings48 mins ago

Saudi Arabia to display interactive design installation “Woven” at London Design Biennale 2023

The Architecture and Design Commission announces the participation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the fourth edition of the...

Business & Money24 hours ago

Bodour Al Qasimi appoints Mariam Al-Obaidli as Managing Director of Kalimat Group

Publishing industry expert to drive innovation and enrichment of Arabic library with group's exceptional publications

Information & Technology2 days ago

HE Al Zeyoudi meets delegation from Mexico to enhance cooperation in fields of trade, investment, agriculture, advanced technology and financial services

His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, has welcomed a delegation of senior...

Events & Happenings2 days ago

42 Abu Dhabi Hosts its Second Chess Tournament with the Participation of World-Renowned Champions

42 Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital’s innovative and disruptive coding school that provides a unique peer-to-peer, gamified learning methodology, hosted...

Events & Happenings2 days ago

Dubai’s summer ‘KIDS-GO-FREE’ campaign kicks off with an exclusive meet & greet with A-LIST KID-FLUENCERS at motiongate

Dubai’s summer just got a lot cooler! Get ready to experience the magic of MOTIONGATE™ Dubai and Dubai’s incredible attractions...

Business & Money2 days ago

MeetChina returns to Abu Dhabi for 10th edition

With China’s reopening gaining momentum and global destinations eager for Chinese visitors to return, MeetChina offers the ideal platform for...

Business & Money2 days ago

Lumina Capital Advisers appointed as a registered provider to UK Government’s DBT Overseas Referral Network

Lumina Capital Advisers, a leading corporate finance advisory firm, has been appointed by the UK government’s Department for Business and...

Energy & Environment3 days ago

HE Al Zeyoudi Addresses US GreenTech Delegation in Dubai, Invites Private-Sector to Invest in Clean Energy Transition

His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, addressed a US-led GreenTech delegation to...

Events & Happenings3 days ago

Abu Dhabi Festival Co-production of ‘Eden’ World Tour Continues to Captivate Audiences Worldwide

The Abu Dhabi Festival co-production of Grammy-winning mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato’s ‘Eden,’ which seeks to restore humanity’s connection to the natural...

Education3 days ago

The Green Planet and GEMS Legacy School Join Forces to Raise Awareness on Plastic Pollution

In celebration of World Environment Day, The Green Planet – Dubai’s only indoor tropical rainforest – is partnering with GEMS...

Events & Happenings3 days ago

Soak up the sun and enjoy JUMEIRAH creekside hotel’s pool party at CU-BA rooftop

Jumeirah Creekside Hotel is thrilled to announce its latest offering, the exciting Pool Party at Cu-Ba. Overlooking Dubai Creek, the...