Hi everyone, I just wanted to share with you my recent 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. So when the reporter Waad Arif contacted me for the interview, I was very excited but also would say even somewhat terrified of the idea of being on TV. Me, on TV? I’m way too shy and introverted for that! But I’m glad I went for it and so grateful that I was featured. I wrote this post to highlight all the things that have been edited out from the final interview and take the chance to explain a bit further about my work. Scroll to the end of the post to watch the video clip!
The introduction and voice over in the interview clip (link attached below in this post) 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 and social media channels 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 a very 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 to see! I’d been doing so much talking on the day of the interview, naturally I expected the parts where we talk were going to be the focus of the clip. It was surprising 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 the courtyard of a heritage house owned by mr Mubarak. A perfect setting for the interview and one of my favorite spots in Riyadh!
Here are some of the edited parts from the interview:
I was asked what are my favorite travel destinations in Saudi Arabia? What I replied- it’s hard to pick one favorite. 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?
The Blog name Blue Abaya has a symbolic meaning, combining something from my home country Finland ( the color blue in our flag) and something from my new home in Saudi Arabia, the abaya. When I arrived in Riyadh back in 2008, I noticed the lack of any Saudi Arabia based travel blogs/ websites. 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, which of course being female is always an extra challenge. We ended up taking a hospital taxi and found the right place after some searching. With a group of Finnish friends we drove around in quad bikes and had a blast. I still remember that day like it was yesterday.
I want to point out that in the interview we’re discussing Saudi Arabia from the pov travel and tourism related things only. There’s a part where I said “women can do a lot of things here”. Here because the editor chose to cut out the important part of why I started my blog, it needs to be clarified that this is the context in which the remark is taken from. People who live outside of KSA often have no clue about what Saudi Arabia is like, they think of it as being a boring, miserable place to be with nothing to do. So my blog aims to help change some of those misperceptions of KSA as a boring place with nothing to do (especially if you’re female).
There were a few people who jumped to the conclusion that I was in fact talking about women’s rights 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, and that most Saudi women are in fact “miserable”because their guardians prevent them from doing anything.
I just want to say I’ve met, made friends with and know many Saudi women from all layers of the society, 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 women’s rights situation or indifferent to the plight some Saudi women face is simply not true. In fact it couldn’t 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 roots. My daughter is also Saudi and I will never stop fighting for her equal rights, hopefully someday she will be treated as equally valuable member of society as her bother is.
People need to understand that just because you’re doing one thing, it doesn’t take away or devalue something else.
All in all, I’m really glad I did this interview, despite my initial nervousness and disappointment of so many important things cut out by the editors, which led to these misunderstandings.
Big thanks to the MBC interview 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 actually been surprised about the places that actually exist in KSA which they found out about from 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 link!
Watch the interview here: https://twitter.com/mbcinaweek/status/824978912983789568
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Hello there, I’m Laura, the founder, author and manager of Blue Abaya, the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia established in 2010. Travel has always been my passion- so far I’ve visited 69 countries and I’m always on the lookout for new adventures inside and outside of Saudi Arabia! Having visited all corners of the Kingdom with over a decade of experience, I have a vast knowledge base about travel and tourism in Saudi Arabia.