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“A beautiful cultural, visual, and human overview of what Saudi Arabia is about to offer us”

A man of the Flowermen Festival. © Marc Nouss

Marc Nouss is a French photographer who specializes in travel. It is undoubtedly this quality that makes his Instagram account familiar to the 100,000 subscribers. And it is undoubtedly the latter that earned him an invitation to Al Soudah Season, the period during which the mountainous region of Al Soudah, which hosts the Flowermen Festival in particular, is open to tourists. A new incursion for the photographer, in this country which continues to prepare its opening.

Al-Soudah… It’s normal not to know the name! I will try to make you discover more about this region of southern Saudi Arabia, through “Al Soudah Season”.

The Al-Soudah mountains rise to an altitude of 3000m, with Abha as its regional capital, which is located at an altitude of 2300m. It is here that the Flowermen Festival was organized in August, in order to make the region a little more known, with a view to opening up to tourism in a few years’ time.

The regional capital of Abha, located at an altitude of 3000m. © Marc Nouss

This region has a lot to offer, the kindness of the local population first, then its temperate climate (it is about twenty degrees during the day, and much cooler in the evening! All this in the middle of August !), and finally its magnificent landscapes: breathtaking views, in which various activities are organized (zip line, bungee jumping, paragliding, hiking, etc.).

In terms of gastronomy too, the offer is abundant, whether it is with local cuisine, but also very good international restaurants, Greek or Italian for example.

A breathtaking view from the top of an Al-Soudah mountain. © Marc Nouss

Rome was not built in a day

On the other hand, the organization is still far from perfect and ready for major tourism, judging for example by the lack of punctuality of the drivers on-site. This huge problem caused us to lose half a day, and more than several hours during the 2 days. This is a concern that the organizers will have to remedy in future editions of the festival.

Multitude of activities

On the spot, the program is particularly varied, with the possibility of discovering vertiginous spaces, almost devoid of buildings, as well as more modern cities like Abha.

The nocturnal shows in Rijal Alma’a. © Marc Nouss

The visit also takes us on the trail of modern architectural jewellery, such as Villa Al Sahu, built by the architect Khalid Henedy for his father, or villages with much more traditional architecture, such as Rijal Alma’a, where the Flowermen Festival takes place (named after a village where men wear flower wreaths for festivities).

The nocturnal shows in Rijal Alma’a. © Marc Nouss

Already magnificent in itself, the village sublimates itself at nightfall, when the show of sounds and lights begins. That’s when the magic happens! I really fell back into my childhood, with all those lights, and the fireworks that accompanied my return to the hotel in Abha was a perfect end to this 48-hour stay. A stay that will have given me, once again, a beautiful cultural, human and visual insight into what Saudi Arabia is about to offer us in a few years’ time.

Fireworks to end the trip on a beautiful note. © Marc Nouss