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UHI Team on "Journeys through Saudi" - Exclusive Interview


From 12 - 16 November 2022, we joined our partners of the Saudi Tourism Authorities on a familiarization trip through Saudi Arabia where we were able to witness firsthand the ongoing developments to transform the tourism Landscape in Saudi Arabia.

Aside from Visits to key landmarks and UNESCO heritage sites such as Al Ballad Area in Jeddah or Diriyah Gate near Riyadh, we had the pleasure of meeting with Local Travel professionals, DMOs, DMCs, Hotel Partners, and the STA Team during several business forums and networking meetings.


Here is the complete Interview with Tahira

(UHI Special Projects & Communications Manager)

and Sebastian (UHI VP- Strategy & Technology)





What surprised you the most during your Visit?


Tahira: "The transformation Saudi has gone through during the recent past is commendable. I believe the generation leading and running the country is very passionate and welcoming. The recent changes in visa and travel regulations are revolutionizing the tourism industry which is evident from the positive growth in both religious as well as leisure tourism."


What was the biggest difference in how Saudi Arabia has developed and changed, compared to your expectations?


Sebastian: "When entering KSA, you can feel a certain passion in and desire to share Saudi heritage and culture with visitors, but also a curiosity to learn more. Saudi people we encountered during our trip have been nothing else than welcoming and showed great hospitality.

You will notice hundreds of projects everywhere in the country with enormous potential, rich history, and very well-preserved landmarks which makes a trip especially interesting.

Cultural differences are present for sure, but rather than this being an issue, these are celebrated and shared, which makes this experience unique."

How was the language barrier/your ability to communicate with people?


Tahira: "Everyone we come across in Saudi speaks excellent English. Saudi is well prepared to welcome tourists from all parts of the world. Multilingual local tour guides are also conveniently available."


What super-touristy thing did you do that was surprisingly awesome?


Sebastian: "We saw many exciting places including the Al Balad district in Jeddah, the Holy Mosque in Madinah, the Diriyah gate district, etc. If I had to single out an experience that surprised me, it would have to be the Riyadh Boulevard district.

Everyone has possibly seen the “Times Square” – like screens in some pictures before, but the Boulevard is much more than that. Behind the screens, you will find a well-designed and impressive retail area with different squares, activities, shops, and excellent restaurants overlooking the water/light/fire fountain show."

What was the best/most interesting thing you ate on your trip (Saudi/cultural food)?


Tahira: "Saudi is such a hospitable nation that they will stuff you with food 😊 Arabic coffee and dates are generously served wherever you go. If I have to pick the most interesting experience, I would say Camel meat kebabs were one of the best kebabs I have ever tasted. The authentic Baklawa is also something not to miss out on when visiting Saudi."


Did you notice any cultural norms that would be helpful for someone to know before visiting?


Sebastian: "There are very few norms to be followed, most important is to be respectful of personal boundaries & religion and avoid bad language and loud behavior (which really should apply anywhere in the world).

While the dress code for male visitors is very flexible, women, although there is no need to cover, should wear long clothes. To fully embrace the culture, you may also try out a stylish Abaya!

Around religious sites and landmarks, special rites and dress codes are to be observed, and some places such as Makkah and Mosques are also off-limits for non-Muslims."


What was the most beautiful place you couldn’t just resist taking pictures of?


Tahira: "Saudi Arabia is a beautiful country with vibrant colors and picturesque places, ranging from serene oases, and soothing heritage sites to dazzling Boulevard Riyadh, it is hard to pick one. I took 100s of pictures at every place we visited."


What advice would you give someone who’s traveling there for the first time?


Sebastian: "Put the stereotypes aside and open yourself to experience Saudi with your own eyes. Embrace the rich culture, stunning visuals, flavorful foods, and smells, and use all your 5 senses doing so.

Use a local guide at least for a few hours to walk you through the evolution and history of KSA which will open your eyes and help you understand heritage sites and stories much better.

Lastly, do not be scared to ask, most locals are extremely helpful, curious, friendly, and do speak English."



Here are some impressions about the FamTrip to Jeddah, Madinah, and Riyadh:



UmrahHolidays offers a variety of Hotels and Transportation services in and around the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with exclusive Hotel rates and deals. To get in touch, please contact:





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