JEDDAH: As Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector aims to attract 100 million visitors annually, a Saudi man, his wife and their daughter are trying to boost the country’s tourism profile locally and internationally.
The family has always been fascinated with tourism in their homeland and launched an initiative in 2019 to change perceptions about their country. They create unique postcards that feature the most prominent sites in the Kingdom under the slogan “Saudi Arabia is not only sand and desert.”
“We are an extremely adventurous family that wants to show the world how Saudi Arabia looks on a simple, old-fashioned, but still effective, postcard,” said Bandar Al-Rifai, 45, who works in incident and change management.
“The postcards feature photos we took while visiting each place in our beloved country as we want to change the stereotype about Saudi Arabia.”
The postcard project is a family affair as Al-Rifai is joined by his wife Shuaa, 39, a freelance interior designer, and their seven-year-old daughter, Farrah.
To document their journey, every family member has specific roles. Al-Rifai is the leader while Shoaa is the navigator, cook, and designer. Farrah is the model, who also handles the camera, cellphone drone and reads the booklets about the different places they visit.
The finished product can be viewed on the family’s Instagram account, Traveler Crews.
Their motivation to explore the beauty of their homeland was prompted when a friend praised them for their world travels but then asked if they had anything to share about Saudi Arabia.
It was at that moment when Al-Rifai paused to think. For a well-traveled person with zero knowledge about his own country, the question motivated him to look inward and launch a tourism mission that will benefit the Kingdom.
“I work with an international company and there was an expat colleague who referenced Saudi Arabia as a ‘sandpit,’” Al-Rifai said. “It gave me the power to change this even if it was a small thing like a picture or a video. Then we ended up with postcards.”
Explaining why they chose postcards, Al-Rifai told Arab News: “It helps you stand out from the crowd. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, everyone was sending postcards. Not only did postcards serve as an easy way to communicate with someone, but they were also fun to collect.”
To bring attention to the beauty of Saudi Arabia, Al-Rifai and his family, originally from Jeddah and now living in Riyadh, set out to discover all of the country’s famous monuments.
Al-Rifai said the project includes a large number of different sites from around the country that include the ancient city of Mada’in Saleh, Farasan Island, Al-Soudah, Al-Shaq Great Canyon, Rijal Almaa village, Umm Jarsan Cave, Wadi Al-Disah, Jabal Al-Qadr volcanic mountain, and more.
“Many people do not know about the existence of volcanoes in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “There are more than 2,000 dormant volcanoes, three of which are semi-active.”
Their family’s favorite expedition so far started at the end of January and ran through mid-March.
“It included the whole west south, west and west north of Saudi Arabia,” Al-Rifai said.
“Plus, I was a marshall for the 2021 Diriyah E-Prix for the third time and, Inshallah, will do the same for December’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.”
They produced and gave away 700 postcards showing local scenes and the country’s major tourist attractions during the trip.
“We received many requests to host people who received our postcards,” Al-Rifai said. “If they come to Saudi Arabia, they ask for help with directions on how to visit what they saw on our cards in person.”