“The most sophisticated architecture in the world”: an American writer is surprised by the rapid development of the kingdom
RIYADH: The skyscraper-filled city skylines of Saudi Arabia dominate the landscape. Such was the impression of the American writer Paige Peterson, who recently visited the Kingdom for a three-month visit at the invitation of the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Princess Reema bint Bandar Al- Saud.
Peterson’s first visit to the Kingdom was in 2015, when she was invited by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir, who was also Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States when the two met. are encountered.
“He had two good reasons for [inviting me]. One was professional. I was executive vice president of the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, and one of my missions was to build alliances with the Saudi medical community. The other was personal. As a writer and photographer, I was endlessly curious about the Saudi people and their landscape,” Peterson said.
On her most recent trip, which began in February this year, Peterson spent nearly three months traveling alone across Saudi Arabia for the sole purpose of photographing and writing about Riyadh, AlUla, Hegra, Tabuk, NEOM, Jeddah, Taif, Jubbah, Hail, Alkhobar, Dammam, Al-Hasa and Abha in the Asir region.
“I have been asked endlessly if I feel safe in Saudi Arabia. I have never felt insecure. The culture of Arabs is to welcome guests and travelers with open arms. The extraordinary charm of generosity Saudi culture and genuine hospitality is legendary. The streets are safe,” said Peterson.
A great nature lover, Peterson spoke with wonder as she described the Kingdom’s natural wonders, including “the thrilling experience of a sandstorm”.
She was amazed at the rapid development of the Kingdom, with clusters of commercial buildings creating trendy new neighborhoods, filled with bustling restaurants and a bustling cafe culture that swarmed people.
On social reform, she noticed young men and women mingling freely, a thriving nightlife, and more women driving.
With Saudi Arabia quickly becoming a new must-visit destination, Peterson had this to say to those considering a trip: “It’s all you’ve heard and nothing you’ve heard. Go back in another century, turn a corner and you are in the most sophisticated architecture in the world.
“You will be enchanted by the warmth of the people and the diversity of the country. There are mountains, beaches, coral reefs, grasslands and forests, not to mention the largest sea of sand in the world.
As a journalist, Peterson has reported extensively on the Middle East. His most recent book is “Growing Up Belvedere-Tiburon”. With Christoper Cerf, she is co-author and illustrator of “Blackie: The Horse Who Stood Still” and the illustrator of “A Christmas Carol”, adapted by Jesse Kornbluth.
As a painter, Peterson is represented by the Gerald Peters Gallery in New York and has been honored by the Guild Hall Academy of the Arts in East Hampton.
She is a writer and artist-in-residence at Literacy Partners and a board member of Catmosphere, the National Council on Arab-American Relations, and the Safari West Wildlife Foundation.