AL-SOUDAH: The tourism mega projects that are underway in Saudi Arabia will change the world’s perception of the Kingdom, according to extreme-sports athlete Jokke Sommer. The Norwegian professional skydiver, BASE jumper and wingsuit flyer recently displayed his aerial skills in Asir region as part of the Al-Soudah summer festival season, and said that he had a very good experience during his stay. He urged others to visit and see the Kingdom for themselves, and how differs from the preconceptions they might have, based on a misleading image often projected by the international media.
“Once Saudi opens up tourism more, this will change automatically,” he said. “People will see the country is not what people or the media have told them.”
Sommer, who began skydiving in 2007, has completed jumps and in many countries around the world, including China, Brazil and a number of locations in the Middle East. He said that Saudi Arabia compares favorably.
“What makes Al-Soudah cool is mostly the people the culture and the fact that everyone is curious about what we are doing and so open and peaceful,” he said. He added that he was also impressed by the terrain and natural beauty of the mountainous Asir region, which was perfect for the wingsuit flyers taking part in the festival.
“The nature there was very beautiful as well; it was green and surprising,” said Sommer. “We normally think the Middle East is a lot of sand and rocks but it was really nice to fly over green
However, it was the people of Asir that really made his first visit to the Kingdom feel special, he added, despite receiving negative comments from some people around the world when he told them he was visiting Saudi Arabia.
“When you are [in the Kingdom] and you see it, you see that women are treated with more respect than in the western world,” he said. “It’s very strange because the whole concept is that Saudi Arabia and its people are not free, in that sense. I feel that Saudi Arabians are such peaceful people who simply just enjoy life.”
Wingsuit jumpers wear a suit that has extra fabric between the legs and under the arms. This allows them to glide great distances after jumping from an aircraft or from a jump point, increasing their time in the air before deploying a parachute. BASE jumping involved parachuting or wingsuit flying from from fixed points or objects. BASE is an acronym for building, antenna, span (such as a bridge) and earth (such as a cliff or mountainside). Jumps by Sommer have been featured in a number of internet videos and web series.