Updated: Jul 23
It is very appropriate that Marie Claire called its Arabic edition, ARABIA, the ancient land with steep history, both in archeological and human perspective. It’s been difficult to pinpoint one topic to focus on or one aspect to look at, the more we explore a topic or an angle, another interesting one starts appearing, just like a cabinet of curiosities or a 1001-night story, each story takes you to another, without knowing, you find yourself lost in wonder, imagination, discovery and challenges. So, here in the summer issue we decided to stop resisting & just dive deeply in our imagination, get inspired and embrace the adventure!
And how wonderful and freeing it was, looking at Arabia from a faraway point of view gives you better, full picture. It also makes you appreciate the beaty of this land and its peoples, the ARABS, a tapestry of their colors, ethnicities, religions, cultures, and customs made them special with in world cultures. as there is no one ARAB, there is no one Arabia, and in Saudi Arabia, the mix of terrains, weathers, landscapes, and geographies shaped all the stories we are going to explore here.
We have already established our May issue’s feature that the lands have been inhabited and crossed by nearly all human civilizations, but when we embrace the discovery adventure of Saudi Arabia, we realize that it’s not only lands, it’s also the seas!
The Saudi shores are full of treasures, both natural and manmade, from spectacular coral reefs to sunken ships, full of everything you might think of, prehistoric jars filled with spices to modern industrial cables.
As summers are now a busy time planning travels and holidays, the reality is, the cultures of these lands have always been traveling & welcoming visitors. passing by to the Mediterranean and beyond, or the ancient pilgrimage city of mecca, in July, Saudi Arabia will be welcoming pilgrims from all over the world. as Saudis, this is a very special, proud, and honorable time for us, just like our ancestors before, by the way, even before Islam.
This issue we will explore hajj from major world cities, and how that shaped us. We will explore the hajj water track of Zebadiah, khalif Haroun AlRasheed wife. And how her personal hajj made her build this monumental project to feed, house and more importantly provide water to pilgrims coming from Bagdad to Mecca, this trek provided lodging for travelers every night of their journey. all the amenities needed from horses, postal service & road signs showing time and distance to the destination, this was more that 1000 years ago!
This adventure can still be experienced today with numerous hiking treks, In all of Saudi. The tracks and treks will pass through ancient buildings, monuments, Ayn Zebadiah, and the Hejaz Railway which was linked to the orient express in Istanbul.
Although westerners have been hiking in Saudi Arabia for decades, its relatively a new concept in Saudi, however, with the tourism opening, the government have dedicated many hiking treks all over the kingdom, if you want a dessert or mountain hike, you have it. I suggest you come now as this sport as still a true adventure. The best thing is to find locals and join them, as you will discover paths and secret locations that is still hidden. You will also experience local traditions and hospitality which will make that adventure a memorable one.
There are so many hiking destinations to choose from, whenever you plan your visit or where you would like to go. I suggest visitsaudi.com to choose your ideal hike, however, the most important thing is wherever you go , make sure you immerse yourself in the imagination , think of all the people who passed, become the ancient traveler , become the archeologist, the geologist, look at the stars, feel the heat, or cold, remember that you are the new adventurer visiting ancient lands, truly you are walking a land that was a hidden secret from the rest of the world, so live the adventure and get inspired.
Diving in Saudi Arabia is a true wonder, the shores and depts of both the red sea and the Arabian gulf are bejeweled with treasures, natural and manmade. From pristine untouched shores to lively clean unpolluted coral reefs, diversity of sea creatures, colorful, beautiful, and preserved. Explore the ancient ruins in those port cities and the sunken ships, weather they are roman filled with spices and Egyptian statues or modern industrial ships. The beaty of nature conquering those vessels is like how Saudi Arabia is becoming. the mix of life, nature, human life, and industrial progress is like a metaphor on how nature and progress can co-exist. It might be a romantic thought, but its inspiring nonetheless, so, literally dive into a magical space & just enjoy it.
Hajj & the Zubeida Road:
For most people in the world, Saudi Arabia is two things, Mecca & Oil. those two things might seem contradicting at start. However, as a Saudi, it feels very natural, normal, and logical. From the logical point of view, a pilgrimage consists of a place, a visitor, and a host. how amazing it is if the place is mecca, the visitor is the world and the host are the Arabs! as we aim to inspire here and tell stories, just imagine the possibilities and the stories. It’s an overwhelming thought! thousands of years of pilgrimage, has 1001 stories. here, we would like to shed a bit of light on one of them. Ain Zubeida, this truly is a story of purpose, giving, generosity and most importantly faith and humility.
Books have been written on both hajj and Zubeida, however, the story of the Ain Zubeida or Zubeida Road is one inspiring, ambitious and forward thinking.
Zubeida bin Jaffar was the wife of calif Haroon AlRasheed, arguably the most powerful man of his time, in the golden age of the Abbasid caliphate. They are truly legendary, numerous 1001 nights stories about them. Most are mythical and enjoyable, but our story is true and still visible latterly on the ground today in Saudi Arabia.
When it was time for the most wealthy, fashionable, and powerful woman of her time to do her hajj pilgrimage in 186 H, from Iraq to mecca, even though she had a royal caravan with all what she needed. She still felt the struggle of travel. her thought was if I struggled! how would others feel?
This inspired her to a monumental building project she embarked on that would cement her place in history. She gathered all the experts and engineers in the empire and asked them to build a road like no other, water would be supplied throughout, have stations for people to drink, eat, sleep, change horse, camels, shop and, latterly all their needs met until Mecca. When she was told about the cost she said one of her famous quotes (ابداء ولو كلفت ضربة الفأس دينارا) , she financed the project from her own wealth , and when the project was finished, they brought a sample of the water with the documents of expenses , she gently drank the water , thanked god , took the documents , and emersed the water and said her most famous quoter that became a legend (الحساب يوم الحساب).
I have to admit, this article was an adventure to write, however, like all adventures, it has been a soul fulfilling experience, as the slogan of tourism in Saudi Arabia , روح السعودية ، you will discover the soul of Saudi Arabia.