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 live 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 very excited but also hesitant, would say 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 so grateful that I was featured.
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 out my Instagram Inspired By Arabia!
I wanted to mention that a lot of things I said in the interview were edited out because there is a time limit they have to adhere to. I’d like to take this opportunity to explain about the parts that were left out, I feel they’re an important part of my message.
When I saw the interview for the very first time, I was actually a little shocked because the outcome was completely different from what I had expected. I had been doing so much talking on the day of the interview, in my mind I’d thought that was going to be the focus of the clip. I was surprised to see so much of walking around was included, which by no means is a bad thing because the place is so beautiful, just not at all what I had envisioned. I guess the editor had a different kind of interview in mind than I did :)
The interview was filmed in Historical Diriyah, at a heritage house owned by mr Mubarak. A perfect setting for the interview and one of my favorite spots in Riyadh!
On to some of the arts left out:
I was asked what are my favorite travel destinations in Saudi Arabia? What I replied- 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 how right now my top destination might be Tabuk Province, because it has so much diversity within the province. From the majestic mountains and canyons of Wadi Rum, the untouched wild coast, pristine beaches, gorges which open to the Red Sea, natural springs, oasis and lots and lots of history. Another all time favorite area in Saudi Arabia of mine are the Farasan Islands and Jazan Province.
If you’d like to know more about my favorite places to visit in Saudi 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 areas 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 the items inside. Mr Mubarak was impressed about my work and he loved the things I had designed using the doors of his house. One of the pillows with this door design is now decorating the Mubarak house :) I think that’s pretty cool!
Something else that was left out from the interview that I think is important to mention; how and why I started the Blue Abaya blog?
I noticed the lack of any Saudi Arabia based travel blogs/ websites back in 2008 when I came to Saudi Arabia. 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 the places I found to help other people find these amazing places too.
Through my blog I also aim to encourage expats to get out and explore their host 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 which is really great to see! Glad to be a part of getting that movement going on.
Which brings me to another left out question: “When did you start traveling in Saudi Arabia?” From the day I arrived I was on the move, out and about exploring the country as a single female. Riyadh was a very different place in 2008 than it is now. I organized a trip to the Red Sands on my third day of being in KSA, even though I had no idea where the dunes were! I had just heard of a place called Red Sands. So what I did is I began researching and trying to find out where it is and how to get there. We ended up taking a hospital limo and found the right place. With a group of Finnish friends we drove around in quadbikes and had a blast.
I want to point out that in the interview we’re discussing Saudi Arabia from the pov of places to see, activities to do, events, etc. There’s a part where I said women can do a lot of things here, what I meant is women can do all these things, they can travel inside KSA, go to events, exhibitions and so on. People who live outside of KSA often have no clue about this, they think of Saudi Arabia being a boring, miserable place to be with nothing to do.
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 a lot of things”, these people said that I don’t know or care about the life of average Saudi women at all. I just want to say I’ve met, made friends with and know many Saudi women from all layers of the society, and I will always support them in their efforts to gain equal rights. 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 which is a very important subject to me personally. So to say I’m somehow ignorant about the situation or 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 always following the situation of women’s rights and supporting their campaigns whenever possible. I’m actually quite vocal about expressing my views, this probably comes from my Finnish nature :)
All in all, I’m really glad I did this interview, despite my initial feeling that I wouldn’t be able to do it because I’m too shy/ introverted. Big thanks to the MBC crew for making it happen and for such a fun day filming.
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 best kind of feedback one can get is when the Saudi people themselves thank me for showing the true beauty of their country to the world. Many Saudis have been surprised about the places that actually exist in KSA. They found out about them through me. That really keeps me motivated and gives me a push to continue the Blue Abaya blog in 2017 to its 7 th year. 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.
Scroll down for the interview clip!
Watch the interview here: https://twitter.com/mbcinaweek/status/824978912983789568