Photographer Anna Aiko captures beauty of Arabian Peninsula on camelback

Photographer Anna Aiko captures beauty of Arabian Peninsula on camelback
Anna Aiko was invited to the celebration of the 91st National Day of Saudi Arabia. She was chosen to experience 91 km of the ancient trail of Darb Zubaydah on camelback. (Supplied by Abdullatif Al-Obaida)
Short Url
Updated 18 November 2021

Photographer Anna Aiko captures beauty of Arabian Peninsula on camelback

Photographer Anna Aiko captures beauty of Arabian Peninsula on camelback
  • ‘I love to travel by camel while capturing the authentic life along the ancient caravan trails’

RIYADH: Crossing the Empty Quarter in Saudi Arabia is a feat in and of itself but crossing it by camelback in the 21st century is extraordinary, and photographer Anna Aiko is in for the whole experience as she travels across the Kingdom, the UAE, Yemen, and the Silk Road this way.

“My dream was to explore the region on camelback, but the question was how?” Aiko said.

When asked how she would describe herself, Aiko told Arab News: “An iPhone photographer with a passion for traveling on camelback.” 




In the mid-1970s, Aiko’s parents lived in Saudi Arabia. Throughout her childhood, she listened to their stories about the region and came to love it. (Supplied by Abdullatif Al-Obaida)

Aiko was born and raised between two cultures.

“I was born in Tokyo and raised between Japan and France. I later moved to Paris for 20 years as an art director in the fashion and luxury industries.”

In the mid-1970s, Aiko’s parents lived in Saudi Arabia. Throughout her childhood, she listened to their stories about the region and came to love it.

“The Arab world became like a fairy tale,” she said. “With this mix of cultures, I could see the world with a vision.” 

Aiko has had a lifelong passion for traveling, and one of the major trips she took saw her follow the ancient path of the Silk Road in 2015. During the trip, she captured photos with her iPhone, which led her to win, among other awards, the iPhone Photography Awards.

The year 2019, when she crossed the Empty Quarter, known as Rub Al-Khali in Arabic, was a turning point in her life.

“A friend told me that he was looking for a man who wanted to cross the Empty Quarter on camelback,” she said. “Although I didn’t know how to ride a camel, I told him that I wanted to be the one to do it, and 72 hours later, I was flying to Saudi Arabia to join the Rakayib Camel Caravan to cross the vast desert.”

Even though her trip started with a sandstorm, she was thrilled, and it was in that moment that her love story with the Arabian Peninsula began.

“I cried tears of joy because something impossible was becoming a reality. I was living my dream.” 

Her passion for traveling on camelback only grew, and today Aiko owns two beautiful camels.

“Exploring the beauty of the Arabian Peninsula this way never ceases to amaze me,” she said.

The trip covered a total of 2,400 km. In the UAE, she traveled with the Hamdan bin Mohammed Heritage Center, while to the island of Socotra, in Yemen, she traveled with the support of the Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Foundation. 

Recently, Aiko was invited to the celebration of the 91st National Day of Saudi Arabia. She was chosen to experience 91 km of the ancient trail of Darb Zubaydah on camelback.

Darb Zubaydah, or the Zubaydah Trail, is one of the Islamic civilization’s most significant humanitarian and social projects. It stretches from Kufa in Iraq to Makkah, covering 420 km inside the Kingdom alone, and was once known as a route for pilgrims and traders.

The trail was named after Zubaydah bin Jafar, wife of Caliph Harun Al-Rashid, who contributed to its construction and revival for convoys and passersby.

“The region of Hail, since ancient times, was the heart of travelers, and the generosity of its people was renowned. Discovering this new part of Saudi, I had tears in my eyes. The area’s landscapes, sand dunes, desert, mountains, and rock art are remarkable.” 

She mentioned that she is planning for a few trips in the future. “I’m trusting how life will guide me to the next step, to create a new link between its histories, like a puzzle.”

One of Aiko’s goals is to transmit the beauty of the Arabian Peninsula through her trips.

“I’ve been passionate about the beauty of the Arab world for as long as I can remember. I love to travel by camel while capturing the authentic life along the ancient caravan trails.”

She remarked how surprised she was by the “hidden beauty” of the countries within the region.

“As a woman traveling by camel, I’ve always been welcomed like a family member. That allowed me to participate in the culture, which deserves to be better known. I hope that my experience as an art director will allow me to translate the stories through my photography and to preserve the region’s beauty as the 21st century continues to unfold.”


Saudi Crown Prince receives written message from Sweden’s prime minister

Saudi Crown Prince receives written message from Sweden’s prime minister
Updated 28 September 2022

Saudi Crown Prince receives written message from Sweden’s prime minister

Saudi Crown Prince receives written message from Sweden’s prime minister
  • Walid bin Abdulkarim Al-Khuraiji, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, received the message from the Ambassador of Sweden to Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, received a written message on Wednesday from Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s Prime Minister.
In the letter, Andersson expressed her appreciation for the Crown Prince’s role in ‘mediating the exchange of prisoners in the Russian-Ukrainian crisis’, according to Saudi Arabia’s state news agency SPA.
She added that Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts reflected ‘keenness to support all international efforts aimed at resolving the crisis politically and mitigating its impacts’.
Walid bin Abdulkarim Al-Khuraiji, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, received the message from the Ambassador of Sweden to Saudi Arabia, Petra Menander, who delivered it at the Ministry's headquarters.
The pair reviewed bilateral ties between the two nations during their meeting, and exchanged viewpoints regarding issues of common interest.


Saudi police bust four-member gang dealing in counterfeit money

Saudi police bust four-member gang dealing in counterfeit money
Updated 28 September 2022

Saudi police bust four-member gang dealing in counterfeit money

Saudi police bust four-member gang dealing in counterfeit money

RIYADH: Saudi police arrested four citizens for counterfeiting banknotes in Riyadh, Saudi Press Agency reported.
The suspects used houses located east of Riyadh as their headquarters to make fake money.

At the site, police found tools for counterfeiting money, counterfeit money and a stolen vehicle.
All items were sized and the vehicle was recovered.


Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince meets with Kingdom’s Minister of Defense

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince meets with Kingdom’s Minister of Defense
Updated 28 September 2022

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince meets with Kingdom’s Minister of Defense

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince meets with Kingdom’s Minister of Defense
  • Prince Mohammed bin Salman expressed his gratitude and appreciate for ministry of defense’s efforts
  • The event was attended by commanders from the ministry of defense and the armed forces

JEDDAH: Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, met with the Kingdom’s Minister of Defense and commanders, Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman expressed his gratitude and appreciate for ministry of defense’s efforts and the progress achieved in the development program.
The Crown Prince also commended the increase in internal self-sufficiency of military industries, which saw a 13-percent rise from two percent to 15 percent, hoping it reaches 50 percent under the supervision of the minister of defense and the military personnel.
Prince Khalid highlighted the ministry of defense’s achievements throughout the various development programs in addition to the achievements they wish to fulfill in the future.
The event was attended by commanders from the ministry of defense and the armed forces.


KSRelief continues assistance to communities in disaster-stricken areas

KSRelief continues assistance to communities in disaster-stricken areas
Updated 28 September 2022

KSRelief continues assistance to communities in disaster-stricken areas

KSRelief continues assistance to communities in disaster-stricken areas
  • New humanitarian campaign to spray residual pesticides was launched in Yemen

RIYADH: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) has continued providing assistance to vulnerable communities living in disaster-stricken areas.

Five tons of food baskets were distributed among 678 people in residential areas in the Red Sea State in Sudan as the country reels from the damages of torrential rains and floods that recently hit the country.
In Lebanon, 1,600 beneficiaries received 21 tons of food baskets as part of KSRelief’s efforts to serve Palestinian and Syrian refugees and the host community in Lebanon, according to a statement by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
A new humanitarian campaign to spray residual pesticides was launched in Yemen to eliminate disease-carrying mosquitos in Al-Mahra Governate. The campaign, which targets 1,677 homes, will be carried out by 46 workers and 14 observers.
Meanwhile, shelter materials were distributed to 1,200 displaced people in Al-Atira camp of Lahij in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Aid distribution continued in Pakistan, where the center has already sent nine relief planes for those affected by the heavy floods. On Monday, the center’s teams distributed 1,900 food baskets, 350 tents and 1,200 mosquito nets in Punjab and Sindh provinces, benefiting 11,200 people.
A new campaign was also launched in Bangladesh under the Noor Saudi Volunteer Program to combat blindness. Since the start of the campaign, which will run until October 1, the center’s volunteer medical team has examined 3,000 cases, distributed 911 eyeglasses, and performed 146 cataract surgeries.


Saudi Arabia’s culinary heritage showcased at Terra Madre conference in Italy

Saudi Arabia’s culinary heritage showcased at Terra Madre conference in Italy
Updated 27 September 2022

Saudi Arabia’s culinary heritage showcased at Terra Madre conference in Italy

Saudi Arabia’s culinary heritage showcased at Terra Madre conference in Italy
  • Culinary Arts Commission registers 13 famous Saudi foods on the Ark of Taste list of endangered foods

RIYADH: The Saudi Culinary Arts Commission is hosting a pavilion at the Terra Madre Network conference in Turin, Italy, to showcase some of the Kingdom’s unique dishes and indigenous foods.

The commission said on Tuesday: “At the conference, 13 elements of Saudi cuisine were added to the Ark of Taste Archives, an international catalogue of endangered heritage foods managed by the Slow Food movement. 

“This follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Culinary Arts Commission and Slow Food to support the Kingdom’s burgeoning culinary sector, including the involvement of Saudi farmers’ markets in the Global Slow Food Earth Market list, and the identification of further opportunities for cooperation.”

Mayada Badr

Slow Food is a global movement that operates in over 160 countries to preserve and increase awareness of endangered foods that are unique in taste and native to a certain region.

Some of the Saudi foods that were listed in the Ark of Taste include hassawi rice, native to Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province and considered one of the most expensive types of rice, and samh seeds, native to Al-Jouf Province. 

The list also includes the distinct white desert truffles of the Northern Region called Al-Kamaa, khawlani coffee beans from Jazan Region — among the finest in the world — and Al-Maghmi dates, a traditional Saudi dish made with molasses and sesame seeds.

HIGHLIGHT

Some of the Saudi foods that were listed in the Ark of Taste include hassawi rice, native to Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province and considered one of the most expensive types of rice, and samh seeds, native to Al-Jouf Province.

Registering these foods comes as part of the commission’s efforts to preserve the historical legacy of culinary arts in the Kingdom and encourage the public to protect them from extinction.

Commenting on the participation, Mayada Badr, CEO of the Culinary Arts Commission, said: “The commission’s attendance at this event is a culmination of the work by dedicated producers around the Kingdom to elevate our culinary sector. We are delighted to showcase the best of Saudi cuisine at Terra Madre, and we hope audiences will enjoy sampling some of our unique and delicious dishes.”

The conference also saw the Aseer region in Saudi Arabia formally awarded the title of World Region of Gastronomy 2024 by the International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts, and Tourism.

The international jury of IGCAT experts recognized the welcoming spirit of the Aseer community and their willingness to showcase and share their food and culture.

The jury commented: “The light of the Middle East shines from the region of Aseer. A lot of work has been done to empower the community and prepare them for welcoming future visitors to their unique culture. The culinary scene of Aseer is rooted in tradition and it has the potential to become a culinary destination and contribute to the creative economy.”

On the award for the Aseer region, Badr said: “Saudi Arabia has a diverse culture and a rich heritage, and we are proud that the Aseer region has been formally awarded World Region of Gastronomy 2024, in recognition of their efforts to preserve the region's diverse and distinctive food culture while protecting the environment and empowering younger generations.”

Saudi chef Hatoon Altoukhi, touted as one of the best authentic Italian food chefs on social media, told Arab News: “We have reached a great milestone towards our (Vision) 2030 goals. The Saudi region of Aseer is awarded World Region of Gastronomy in Italy, where the Italians respect and give much more attention to the food industry.

“Being a Saudi chef who specializes in Italian cuisine and (who) married into an Italian family, I immediately shared the news with our family in Italy and felt so much pride that we are now en route to greatness and international gastronomy recognition,” he said.

The Kingdom’s participation at Terra Madre is part of broader efforts to stimulate cultural exchange and dialogue with counterparts worldwide while introducing Saudi Arabia’s diverse culinary heritage and native agricultural crops to the world.

Terra Madre is a network of food communities that holds a major conference every two years in Turin to foster discussion and present innovative concepts on food, globalization, and economics.

The conference aims to connect producers from across the food supply chain to encourage collaboration and improve their skills for a more developed global food system.