Why exploring Saudi Arabia?

A large country broadly unknown...

Since the beginning of the 20th century CE the land that will become the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was still a blank on the map. And a big blank as the country is alone as large as France, Spain, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Portugal, and Ireland altogether! Until its creation in 1932 only few foreign explorers had made the great adventure in the unknown through the center of the Peninsula and with limited means to establish any proper cartography of this vast territory.


Harry Saint-John Philby, British explorer and adviser of King Abdelaziz ibn Saud, was the first westerner to provide detailed descriptions of the central plateau, the Nejd. He led there several expeditions in the 30'ies till the 50'ies that led him until Yemen and during which he took notes of precious details about landscapes, historical sites, and Arab people lifestyle. He also brought back from his travels the first pictures of those remotes regions.

When his countryman Bertram Thomas performed the first recorded crossing of the Rub' Al-Khali , the largest sand dune desert in the world, from Salalah in Oman until Doha in Qatar, both northern and southern poles had already been reached for nearly 20 years.


Oil well drilling rig with airplane and men with camel, ARAMCO (SMU Central University Libraries)

Since the discovery of oil in 1938 the country has experienced a dramatic development on many regards but tourism in the Kingdom is still today a quite confidential activity practiced by few curious people only. This is mainly due to the fact that Saudi Arabia still remains as unknown to the external world as it was at the foundation of the Kingdom in 1932. Actually the terrifying reputation of the desert as a hostile and harsh place is still vivid in most people's minds, including the Saudi nationals themselves.


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