A Stranger Bond: Six strangers discover more about themselves and others

A Stranger Bond: Six strangers discover more about themselves and others

Loqya, a social experiment that brought six strangers to the Edge of the World and what it can teach us about cultivating friendships – and ourselves
31 October 23
Loqya: The Edge of the World

Have you ever contemplated the notion of having a deeper connection with a complete stranger?

It’s perfectly normal if you haven’t – most people don’t typically consider it. But, Obidah Al Mustafa isn’t like most.

Last year, the 29-year-old creative and tour guide came across a quote that changed his perspective on social interactions forever: “It’s good to have online friends, but it would be even better to turn them into real friendships.”

That’s when the idea for his increasingly popular social experiment, Loqya, was born.

Conceptual Beginnings

“I admit it was an odd idea at first. I posted the quote on Instagram in November last year, saying how I’d like to meet a stranger at a café – and I even set up guidelines for the experience, such as a time limit,” he explained.

Obidah, a Syrian who has spent his entire life in Riyadh, didn’t have high hopes for positive responses. To his surprise, however, he received several meeting requests, and so decided to give it a shot. It began with one-on-ones. “Out of eight people I met, one was challenging to talk to,” Obidah recalled. That’s when he decided to introduce question cards to facilitate conversations.

As time went on, the concept evolved. Those keen on participating would send him an Instagram message with their preferred times, days, and city. He would then repost these without disclosing any personal information. If someone replied and agreed to the details, Obidah would organise the meet-up at a café or location of their choice.

Subsequently, he entertained the idea of having these meetings at remote locations instead. This thought eventually crystalised into what is now known as Loqya – a group experience involving six people who have never crossed paths before, getting to know one another by listening with intent and asking questions.

News of this unique social experiment began to spread through word of mouth. While some remained sceptical, particularly concerning the prospect of meeting in remote spots, most people found the experience enjoyable, especially when shared with a group.

A First-Hand Experience

LIST photographer Osama Jaberti, who has also participated in the project, shared his personal perspective on the experience: “To me, Loqya is a space where strangers can experience different sides of each other, where you get to know people outside of your social circles.”

He elaborated on one of Obidah’s posts that highlighted how, from the day we’re born, we tend to stay within the same circles – right from school to our workplaces. This, in turn, limits our exposure to new experiences and fresh viewpoints – as relationships are often a gateway to seeing life from different perspectives.

When he learned that Obidah organised these gatherings out of a genuine desire to help people connect, and at no charge, this made Osama appreciate it even more. “I really loved the concept. However, I was a bit nervous because I’m not very social, and the idea of meeting complete strangers felt weird.” Despite his initial reservations, he went for it.

Through each gathering, Osama had the opportunity to become better acquainted and strengthen his connections with the participants. Loqya also allowed him to learn valuable life lessons, including a deeper understanding of the possible roots of negativity.

“I feel it often arises from experiences that have shaped a person’s outlook,” he explained. “I’m slowly learning to be patient and listen.”

His most recent Loqya experience was at Edge of the World, a geological marvel north-west of Riyadh – and a breathtaking backdrop for meeting new people. The only requirements were to bring water and snacks. The new acquaintances then set off from Al Ammariyah and arrived at the meeting point half an hour before sunset.

After setting up the seating area, they placed the snacks in the middle and shared them with one another. Obidah then took them through the concept. They had a set of over 100 question cards, designed to uncover each individual’s personal story. Five people at a time would ask one person a question, with each turn revealing a new subject. The same process continued with the remaining participants.

“We were asked not to judge people based on their answers and not to interrupt – we became great listeners,” Osama explained. “I noticed that most of the group were open- minded and understanding.”

With every answer provided, Osama discovered something about himself as well. “Getting to know people also helps you understand yourself better.”

Although some of the questions were personal, and participants could choose not to respond if they felt uneasy, everyone chose to answer, and Osama was surprised by how sincere their answers were.

“We went through two rounds until it was 11pm – time passed so quickly. Nature also added to this wonderful energy, making us feel connected and at peace.”

Lasting Impressions

The experience has left an indelible mark on Osama, making him more mindful and, in his words, more humane and accepting of differences. “Strangers are a blessing because we can truly be ourselves around them. Even if our paths should cross again, it won’t be awkward because we’ve connected on a deeper level, and we can be more understanding of each other,” he explained.

Obidah, too, shared his thoughts: “One of the most significant things I’ve learned about myself is that I’m more of a listener than a talker. I’ve learned about psychological issues and how people have overcome them. Most importantly, I discovered I have ADHD through similar experiences participants shared. Every Loqya gathering enriches me in countless ways, and I am truly grateful.”

Looking ahead, the future plan for Loqya is to transform into a full-fledged business, expanding its reach beyond Riyadh to encompass the entire Kingdom, and potentially other countries as well. As it approaches its one-year mark in November, the growth of Loqya, and its impact on people’s lives, will undoubtedly be an exciting journey to follow.