“I came to Saudi Arabia before the country opened to tourists”

Saudi Arabia was one of the most closed countries for tourists, because non-Muslims were not given tourist visas. Only the pilgrims could enter the country during the Hajj (pilgrimage to the Holy places in Mecca). However, the situation may change: the head of the Saudi Commission for tourism and antiquities Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul-Aziz said that in the beginning of 2018 Saudi Arabia will issue visas to tourists.

A couple of years ago, the government briefly opened the border and started to issue visas, but it quickly ended. Photographer Eric Laffor managed to get a visa and went on a journey. A rare opportunity to get into the country, which regularly appears in the headlines of world media and which happened not many people from his entourage, allowed the photographer for two weeks to experience the culture and traditions of the extremely conservative state.

Here, at the urgent advice of Lafarge, is to leave the house, going to Saudi Arabia if you don’t want to fine or even jail:

  • any alcohol (even candy with alcohol);
  • non-Muslim religious attributes;
  • pork and any food in which pork;
  • pornographic materials;
  • gambling;
  • medicines containing codeine.

Throughout the journey we were accompanied by a police escort to ease our movement. At least that’s the official reason.

The Kingdom has long been a target for terrorist attacks, “al-Qaeda” foreigners. Another reason not to let the country the potential victims.

On the roads around Jeddah are clearly visible arch. They mark the boundaries of areas where you can travel non-Muslims. Behind them is the road leading to Mecca. Violation of the law can lead to imprisonment or even to death.

Locals say that if you see an open door at home, you can freely enter the house, where you will be served tea. Most likely, you will see the servant, an Indian woman, never. Such hospitality is widespread in the villages.

Families living in cities love to spend their weekends in tents. This is a modern version of the Bedouin life — their ancestors, but only with satellite TV, air conditioning and a refrigerator.

Falconry in the desert.

First release of a dove, followed by the Falcon. And the owner usually jumps behind the wheel of the SUV and trying to follow the whole process of hunting for the car. In fact, the hunt doesn’t last long, less than a minute, a Falcon catches a pigeon and kills. The award is given to the head and heart of poultry. The owner does not release the Falcon out of sight, and for a reason — it costs 20 thousand dollars.

Many have farms in the desert, where Rashidi grown camels. And the most beautiful animals bring a significant income due to tribal services.

A prehistoric figure, depicting a hunter on a camel. Saudi Arabia has a lot of petroglyphs. They are not protected and are freely available.

At every meeting with the Bedouin have to drink camel milk. It is rich in proteins milk is sold in supermarkets. It is believed that it has healing properties to prevent certain forms of cancer.

Saudi Arabia ranks third among the largest producers of dates in the world.

The only women with whom you can talk on the street, immigrant, Muslim. In the pictures, the Somali girl on the street of Old Jeddah.

Under the yoke of ancient traditions, women are denied most rights.

Without the permission of the guardian, whether husband, father or brother, women can not do practically nothing. For example, drinking coffee in a restaurant, to go to the pool, to go to University, to travel or to ride a bike.

Holster for revolver on the market.

In the South you can often find very young drivers. And by 2017 Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world where women had no right to drive.

There are many rules regarding social status of the person. For example, families first put on a plane and offer them to a private booth in the restaurant.

Men RUB noses in greeting. Also, friends can hold hands. Do not confuse this with homosexual relations punishable by death.

Many people associate the Kingdom with wealth, luxury homes and income. But outside the cities, the country looks different. You can see the scenes reminiscent of biblical times.

Somali girl begging. In 2013, the authorities expelled hundreds of thousands of illegal workers.

Despite the assistance of the state and the existence of free services, cost of living is very high. This man had to sell his stuff on the market.

Some villages are surrounded by a protective wall, and foreigners, including Saudis from other regions, not welcome, as the local tribes protect their traditional way of life and reject the Central government.

They wear crowns of flowers and herbs and live in the hills. Meeting with them at the Bazaar al of Meat were special. Hospitality is a concept alien to these men.

Many modern homes are brightly painted inside and outside. This art was recognized by UNESCO. Mainly responsible for this woman.

Heritage conservation is a government priority. These FORTS were restored to perfection.

The architecture of Old Jeddah, is reminiscent of the tale “Thousand and one nights”. Tall buildings covered with mashrabiya, wooden balconies, which allowed women to leave, being unnoticed. The Saudis left the old city, which has not been restored, despite his affiliation with UNESCO. There are refugees from Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen.

Throughout the country there are mountains.

Traditional houses of clay and brick in the South of the country. They reflect the cultural influence of Yemen in the area. They can be up to seven floors. The first floor is for livestock. Following with small Windows so the heat had not penetrated inside, it is designed to accommodate people. The higher the floor, the window becomes larger to allow more light and cooler air. Some of these houses were built several centuries ago.

Many families come to these houses on the weekends, equipping them with metal roofs and air conditioning.

Mada’in Salih.

The Hejaz railway was built by the Ottoman Empire in the early twentieth century to carry pilgrims to the Holy cities of Medina and Mecca.

Mosque of Umar Ibn al-Khattab was built in 633.

The Museum in El-Hamra is the largest outdoor Museum in the world.

The only way to get to the island of Farasan in the Red sea — rent a boat for a two hour walk.

Relics on Farasan belong to the first century BC.

Extravagance is one of the main characteristics of urban design in Saudi Arabia.

The 20-meter pot.

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