Hi everyone, I just wanted to share with you my interview which was aired on the ‘MBC in a Week’ program on January 27th. In case you don’t in the Middle East or never heard about MBC (Middle Eastern Broadcast Company), it’s the largest TV channel in the region with over 40 million viewers across many countries. When the reporter Waad Arif contacted me for the interview I was first hesitant and even a little terrified about the idea of being on TV. Me, on TV? I’m way too shy for that. But I’m glad I went for it and somehow managed to not freak out during the interview.
The introduction and voice over is in Arabic, the presenter Waad Arif (such a lovely young lady!) is explaining about the story of Blue Abaya or ‘Laura of Arabia’ a Finnish woman who came to work in KSA and found love and happiness there. First she asks about when and why I came to Saudi Arabia, and about my adventures around the country. Then we talk about how I met my Saudi husband and about life in Riyadh.
In the end I’m explaining a bit about my work not only on Blue Abaya website promoting Saudi tourism but my Inspired by Arabia brand where I create Saudi inspired gifts and souvenirs. Something that I am very passionate about! (Please check my Instagram Inspired By Arabia!)
I wanted to add that a lot of things I said in the interview were sadly edited out in the end product, and take this opportunity to explain what those were in this post. When I first saw the result of the interview I was really shocked because it was completely different from I had expected. The slow motion parts, the music, me ogling at the sky..it all felt more like a soap opera than an interview and I laughed with tears in my eyes when I firs it saw it. (especially the part where the hand goes slowly over the door because it’s not even my hand lol) but that’s the style they like doing here I guess.
I honestly had to digest that the interview turned out to be like this for several days before I was brave enough to share it on my Twitter and Facebook clan. The overwhelming positive feedback about the interview finally convinced me it wasn’t too bad after all, I was just being overly self-critical as usual.
The part where I was talking about my favorite travel destinations in Saudi Arabia was left out. What I replied was, it’s hard to say what are my favorites, because many places are amazing but they are all so different from one another. I explained in the interview how right now my top destination might be Tabuk Province, because it has so much diversity within the province. From the majestic mountains and Wadi Rum area, the untouched wild coast, pristine beaches, canyons which open to the Red Sea, natural springs, oasis and lots and lots of history. Another all time favorite of mine are the Farasan Islands and Jazan Province.
Check out my post 10 Amazing Places to Visit in Saudi Arabia and my guest post ‘Saudi Arabia’s 10 most Fascinating Places‘ on ‘Seikkailijattaret’ a Finnish travel portal (in Finnish language but you can use google translate).
I also mentioned how I’ve visited most of the 15 Provinces of Saudi Arabia, only the North in Al Jouf and Al Baha province in the Southern part of Saudi Arabia remain on my KSA bucket list.
From Riyadh I explained how one of my favorite area is Historical Diriyah, the very place where we were filming the interview. What made filming in this location extra special was that we got to meet the owner of the beautiful heritage house, Mr. Mubarak. He explained to us about the history of the place and we asked him lots of questions. This place is one of the most stunning heritage houses I’ve seen. Mr Mubarak was impressed about my work and he loved the things I had designed using the doors of his house.
Something else that was left out from the interview that i thought is important to mention how and why I started this blog. I noticed the lack of any Saudi Arabia based travel blogs/ websites back in 2010 when I began writing. During that time it was nearly impossible to find out about things to do and places to visit in Riyadh let alone in the rest of the country. So I wanted to blog about those things to help people find these amazing places. Through my blog I also aim to encourage expats to get out and explore the country, to make the most out of their time here. And I must say that just by looking at my Facebook timeline now vs in 2010 there has been a drastic change in the amount of people who get out to explore Saudi Arabia! Glad to be a part of getting that movement going on.
In the part where I’m talking about Saudi Arabia and ‘what women can do here’, I want to point out that here we are discussing from the pov of activities to do, events, places to visit etc. Women can do all these things, they can travel inside KSA, go to events, exhibitions etc etc. And that’s what I’m trying to point out, in regards to the incorrect view that outsiders often have about Saudi Arabia being a boring, miserable place to be.
There were a few people who jumped to the conclusion that I was in fact talking about women’s rights in the country with the remark, “women can do everything” which is not true. On a side note, I am and always will be a strong advocate for women’s rights and have written numerous articles on this blog about women’s rights, especially about women driving. So to say I’m somehow ignorant about the situation, indifferent to the plight some Saudi women face is just simply not true. In fact it could not be farther from the truth, I’m actually quite vocal on expressing my views and this probably comes from my Finnish nature :)
All in all, I’m glad I did this interview, despite my initial feeling that I wouldn’t be able to do it because of my nerves. After this interview was aired I’ve gotten so much positive feedback from the Saudis (I’m really honored to be acknowledged by Saudi Commission of Tourism and Heritage and Saudi Tourism website). The Saudi people themselves thanking me for showing the true beauty of their country to the world is really the best kind of feedback one can get! Many have been surprised about the places that actually exist in KSA. They found out about them through me. That really keeps me motivated and push to continue the Blue Abaya blog in 2017. This year will bring along some big changes to the website, stay tuned!
Below a few images from the Mubarak house and courtyard where we filmed the interview. What’s really interesting about this location is that many of my designs were inspired by the doors and windows of this house and I got to meet the owner of the house me Mubarak. He loved my work ask now has some of my items in the house!
Scroll down for the interview clip!
Watch the interview here: https://twitter.com/mbcinaweek/status/824978912983789568