Jeddah: Gateway to Mecca and A Living Cultural Artifact

Paige Peterson is the Executive Vice President of the Huntsman Cancer Foundation and a board member of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations in Washington, D.C.

This photo essay illustrates her visit to Jeddah’s Old City, on the Red Sea, in Saudi Arabia.

 

 

Health conferences are held everywhere but there is a special pleasure in attending one in Jeddah. Having visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia many times for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, I have experienced the genuine warmth of Arab hospitality. To have the opportunity to visit friends there and attend the Saudi American Health Care Forum in Jeddah was a double pleasure.

Accepting an award on behalf of the Huntsman Cancer Foundation from Adel A. Shakoor and HRH Prince Mish’al bin Majed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Governor of Jeddah.

While in Jeddah, I was invited to stay in the guesthouse of my dear friend Fawzia Algosaibi, wife of Saleh Alturki, a prominent Saudi Arabian businessman who was recently named Mayor of Jeddah. What was planned as a two week trip turned into a stay of almost two months but my hosts were beyond gracious. Their hospitality gave me precious time to tour the western seaboard of Saudi Arabia.

With Saleh Alturki, Mayor of Jeddah.

I spent time exploring and photographing the once walled-in city of Old Jeddah, which was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. It’s a cliché to say that a picture can be worth a thousand words. These pictures were worth more than that for me — this visit was like time travel, transporting me to another century. It’s a privilege to share my story here.

 

 

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Madain Saleh: An Archeological Marvel in the Saudi Arabian Desert

Paige Peterson is the Executive Vice President of the Huntsman Cancer Foundation in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a board member of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations in Washington, D.C.

This photo essay illustrates her visit to Madain Saleh, one of Saudi Arabia’s “hidden treasures.”

 

 

When he was the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States, Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir gave me an extended visa. He had two good reasons for doing that. One was professional. I am the Executive Vice President of the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, where one of my missions has been to build alliances with Saudi Arabia’s excellent cancer researchers. The other was personal. As a writer and photographer, I was endlessly curious about Saudi Arabia’s people — and its landscape.

It’s a cliché to say that a picture can be worth a thousand words. These pictures were worth more than that for me — they are the story of a rare and extraordinary adventure. It’s a privilege to share it here.

 

Map depicting location of Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is located on the continent of Asia. It shares land borders with 8 countries: Kuwait, Iraq, Yemen, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan. Saudi Arabia’s geography is dominated by the Rub’ al Khali desert, the second largest desert in the world with only the Sahara being larger. The Kingdom’s population is over 28,000,000.

Saudi Arabia is the 13th largest nation in terms of land area. The United States is about 5 times bigger than the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia is four times the size of France, western Europe’s largest country.

Two bodies of water border Saudi Arabia, the Arabian Sea to the East and the Red Sea to the West.

The flight to Al-Ula was one hour and fifteen minutes from Jeddah.

Prince Abdul Majeed bin Abdulaziz Airport.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by local nature photographers who had an exhibition of their work at the airport. Notice the distinctive ways men can wear their ghutra (headscarf).

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Oman: The Pearl of Arabia

Arriving in the Sultanate of Oman you feel as if you are on a Hollywood set. Orderly. Vast. Visually breathtaking. Often visitors liken it to Disneyland. Controlled. Well-organized, meticulously maintained public grounds. Friendly. Happy. Helpful. Tolerant. No litter. No vagrancy. No graffiti. No terrorism. No violence. No radicalism. No unsafe areas. Did I mention exquisitely clean…It is all this and more.

Oman is an Arabian dreamscape. I’ve never seen such well-planned urban development. Architectural details are carefully mandated here. Many of the buildings are 46 years young; they’re well thought out in placement and accessibility. Even the street lamps in the cities and on the highways are lyrically beautiful in their repetitive form. There is something calming and reassuring about this consistent elegance.

The Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development building in Muscat.

This tranquility is the hallmark of the capital city of Muscat. Muscat means “place of anchorage.” There you find a visual feast of stylish, controlled, and unified structures that underpin the deliberately skyscraper-free skyline. Here a hyper white Arab style of architecture is juxtaposed against the rough rocky landscape of the Hajar Mountains and the blue Gulf of Oman. Oman is an architectural treasure in Arabia.

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