JEDDAH: Long before Saudi Arabia began promoting travel and exploration, an adventurous group of locals from Jeddah aimed to showcase the Kingdom as a prime tourist destination, and succeeded.
Qairawan is an initiative that encourages and enables people to travel around the Kingdom. It consists of Saudis Esraa Rayes and Omar Edrees, Yemeni Nada Al-Nahdi and Lebanese Ziad Traboulsi.
“Each of us used to travel separately, posting our adventures on social media. We received a lot of positive feedback, praise and questions on how to travel around Saudi Arabia,” Al-Nahdi told Arab News.
“Despite answering each query in detail, many still hesitate to venture to untapped places in Saudi Arabia.”
In February 2019, Al-Nahdi came up with the idea of gathering people and taking them on trips in the Kingdom.
The first official trip was the following month.
“Qairawan was inspired by our passion for traveling, our love for underrated beautiful places in Saudi Arabia, and our determination to spread awareness and knowledge on how to travel responsibly and in a minimalistic way,” she said.
The aim is to cover all areas of the Kingdom.
Edrees told Arab News: “Since March 2019, we’ve traveled to the western region, Al-Baha, Jazan, Asir, Tabuk, the central region and northern borders. We’ve explored around 30 cities and villages.”
He added: “Our community is open to all nationalities, classes, genders and ages. Our aim is to encourage and enable travel across the Kingdom for everyone.”
The most common questions the group receives are about locations and how to reach them. Traboulsi said: “There isn’t enough information online on places in Saudi Arabia, and many of them are even undiscovered. We aim to enrich our website with a database that will be continuously updated as we travel around.”
He added that tourists visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time have little knowledge of how vast and diverse this country is.
“With Qairawan, we’ve helped in broadening their perspective and enlightening them with many unexplored sites to see,” he said.
Rayes told Arab News: “After their visit, tourists are astonished by the lush green mountains in the south, pristine beaches along the coast, and rugged mountains and valleys that they hadn’t expected to witness in Saudi Arabia.”
She said: “We want to show the world that Saudi Arabia has everything for everyone, and we want to show locals that going to beautiful places doesn’t require traveling abroad.”
Saudi Arabia holds all the beauty of the world in one place, said Rayes, adding: “From the tops of snowy mountains to the depth of the colorful coral-covered floors of the Red Sea, everyone will find what they’re looking for.”
Qairawan is building a database on its website of all the places people can visit in the Kingdom, with an interactive map that shows the location and activities in the area.
Al-Nahdi said they wanted a name that signifies what the initiative does. “Qairawan was perfect because it means a group of people traveling,” she added.