Saudi men - claiming they are exhausted by the pressures of city living - are taking to the desert in their droves for a slice of fresh air, open spaces and male company.
The ad-Dahna desert is the central region of the Arabian Desert, a sandy mass that extends for 800 miles from the northeast edge of the al-Nafud desert to the borders of the Rub al-Khali desert.
The ad-Dahna desert is known for its reddish color, caused by the iron oxides contained in the sand.
Whilst in the desert, the men adopt a traditional, Bedouin existence, collecting dry wood to build fires and sleeping on the ground, under the stars.
A resident of the bustling city of Buraidah, Mohammad al-Harbi, said the desert provided a much-needed solace from the stresses of his daily life.
“We go out to the desert frequently in these times because we find a safe-haven and comfort and tranquility, especially after a big effort at work, fatigue and the headaches of the city. Many things make us run away to the desert to enjoy a night or two quiet nights with the desert’s calm, beauty and its cold winters,” he said.
The men spend their days and evenings sitting around camp, sharing dates and stories.
Desert guide Mesha’al al-Muhsin said tea and coffee are crucial to the camp experience.
“Coffee is something essential and should remain by the fire 24-hours, at night, in the day, until dawn, at all times coffee must remain and dates and poems. The beauty of sitting around the fire is never complete without coffee,” he said.
The men share the desert with a variety of wildlife such as camels, falcons and goats.
The developing trend for Saudi men to escape to the desert together has meant shops such as al-Sanidi camp supplies are thriving, with people expected to spend more than 200 million U.S dollars on camping in the coming three years, “Saudi consumption volume on camping supplies is around one billion Riyals and the expectation is that it will go up to two billion Riyals in the next three years,” said Chairman of the board of al-Sanidi store Abdulrahman al-Sanidi.
The boom in this area of Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector will come as a relief to an economy that is seeking to move away from its dependence on oil revenues.
The leading oil exporter is hoping to increase its tourism contribution to non-oil GDP, as well as providing jobs in the sector for its 18 million local population.