Home > Middle East, Photography, Travel Photography > Al Balad (“The Old Town”), Yanbu, Saudi Arabia
Al Balad (“The Old Town”), Yanbu, Saudi Arabia
Earlier this month I was on a short business trip to Saudi Arabia. In four previous visits I have had mixed photographic success in the Kingdom, primarily because I have been there on business and usually not in control of my own itinerary nor free to explore either on foot or by vehicle as I might do in most places I travel. Also, Saudi is not a place that's particularly used to people just photographing for the sake of it, as I found out to my detriment back in 2008 when I was detained by the police in Jeddah for inadvertently taking a picture of a royal building that was occasionally used by the intelligence service. Well, how was I supposed to know when it looked just like every other hotel on the seafront? The upshot of it is, a large percentage of my Saudi shots have tended to be taken on enthusiast compacts like the Canon G9 / S90 out the side of moving cars. Not the best recipe for photo success.
But this photo was a rare time when we were able to slow down and take things leisurely; we were visiting the seaside town of Yanbu, which despite being by the seaside is, let's be honest, a bit of a hole. Sorry, Yanbu-ians. As is typical of the bizarro world of Saudi, the seaside is almost completely ignored except for one nice empty park, but otherwise surrounded by empty lots and vast fenced off tracts of abandoned private property. The only bit of "history" around is the Old Town, a clump of old-style wooden clapboard buildings in what was the centre of the old town. In most other countries (or at least places with tourism economies) these would have been preserved and there would have been a thriving set of restaurants and shops drawing the tourists in. Alas, there are no tourists, and no reason to keep the buildings maintained. So, they crumble, ignored, except by the poor souls who call them home. Never let it be said that the Saudis are nostalgic, at least when it comes to architecture….