The Next List: 5 Saudis tell us their travel wishes for 2024
The Next List: 5 Saudis tell us their travel wishes for 2024
Join Princess Nourah AlFaisal, Mashhoor AlNassar, Alaa Abanomi, Kholoud Attar, and Lulu Al Hassan as they unveil their travel plans and share hidden gems from around the globe
Get inspiration from avid Saudi explorers and successful creatives and entrepreneurs, who reveal where they are heading in 2024 and let us in on the best restaurants, cafés, hotels, and cultural hot spots around the world.
Princess Nourah AlFaisal
NUUN JEWELS designer, Princess Nourah AlFaisal, is also the founder of Adhlal, a community-based research and design consultancy in Saudi. Growing up between Riyadh, Paris, and London, Nourah’s life was deeply accentuated by art, alongside visually rich and multicultural environments.
Japan Patagonia San Fransisco
DESTINATIONS: San Francisco, Japan, and Patagonia
An avid traveller and passionate free diver, Nourah is keen for her wanderlust to take her to San Francisco, Japan, and Patagonia in 2024.
“I haven’t really explored the US, and I am hoping to discover San Francisco along with my cohorts.” Travel, for her, is not centred on ticking cities off her bucket list; instead, it is intended to expand horizons, discover cultures and people, and have a wonderful break along the way. Exploring feeds her creativity. “I’m particularly inspired by the architecture of the cities and the landscapes that I encounter during my travels – I think it is very important to engage with different cultures in order to view the world through a different lens.” The designer is actively planning a trip to Japan with her siblings. This will be her second visit there. “The first was a driving tour, but on this one we will be focusing on the food; both of my younger brothers and I are devout foodies – and I can’t wait for this trip to kick off,” she enthuses.
The Saudi royal is planning yet another driving tour later this year in Patagonia, along with her brothers too. The last few trips in 2023 hinged on either work or studies. Soaking up sunshine and taking in the vastness of the sea on a sailboat as a vantage point tends to serve up well as a summer break. She fondly recalls her last holiday in the summer where she took off on a sailing trip in Greece, charting a course along the Aegean Sea. “It is an annual trip; something that both my husband and I look forward to each year. My husband is a sailor and I love free diving – sailing is the perfect getaway for us.”
Is there a city that lived up to its hype? “Yes! Singapore.” The energy and meditative focus in the city-island-nation unfailingly inspire Nourah. “The melange of cultures is everywhere, and the food is just amazing.” When gearing up for trips with her brothers, she likes to follow their lead. “My brothers are in charge, and I’d prefer to go in blind.” That’s how the trip to Japan will shape up, she hints.
Nourah feels that the best way to discover a new place is through long walks. On a personal note, art galleries and museums appeal to her. “I love to just roam about and see where it takes me.” She recalls one of her favourite memories was strolling in St Germain, Paris, with her friend. “As we walked across a square, we spotted a young woman singing opera, a cappella. People stood around her in silence, others sat nearby listening, enjoying the music. It was one of those perfect moments. The singer had such an amazing voice.” Travel experiences such as these are what she invariably treasures the most. Where has she loved eating out the most? “I might sound rather unoriginal but the food in the Amalfi Coast is incredible, especially the fresh fish.” Good, fresh ingredients in simple and endearing dishes, and local favourites are always a winner, she adds.
Interior designer Mashhoor AlNassar takes a curatorial approach for his Al Khobar-based design outfit MKNstudio. His eclectic sensibility, informed by his experiences and travels, helps transform the residences of his high-profile Saudi clients. Mashhoor is busy sourcing decor and design pieces for his new lifestyle, furniture, and accessories store.
Credit: La Pâtisserie by Cyril Lignac Paris Credit: La Pâtisserie by Cyril Lignac
DESTINATIONS: Paris, Hangzhou and Tunis
The designer will be heading to Paris in January to attend the Maison&Objet design fair.
“Paris is one of my favourite cities. I deeply admire French architecture, interior design, and the rhythm of the city. My friends call me a Francophile, and as cliche as that may sound, the city truly has a je ne sais quoi feeling that keeps it youthful, energetic, and inspiring,” he says. There is lot to do in Paris, the designer adds. His day often starts with morning walks to the 16th arrondissement. That’s where one of his favourite pastry shops – La Pâtisserie Cyril Lignac – is located. “I believe they make the best croissants in Paris. I then usually head to St Germain. I love the area; it has many art galleries, furniture boutiques, and local brasseries. My favourite brasserie is just a few minutes’ walk from Le Bon Marché – Le Petit Lutetia serves up really good food and a delicious chocolate mousse.
Paris is dotted with art galleries and museums across the arrondissements, and Mashhoor loves to visit the Palais Royal and Musée des Arts et Métiers every time he is in the city. “They host the most interesting exhibitions about design and art. This time around, I plan to visit the Pinault Collection, Musée de l'Orangerie, as well the individual galleries around the Place des Vosges [formerly called Place Royale]. I really enjoy walking around in the city and absorbing its beauty, especially around the third arrondissement. This area has many boutiques that are modern in design but housed in old buildings. I think the contrast makes an interesting blend.”
In spring, Mashhoor’s work will take him to several cities in China. “I am sourcing materials from North Africa, Europe, and Asia,” he adds. His quest for interesting artisanal homeware and China (bone ware) manufacturers will see him coming back to the region. “I plan to spend more time in Hangzhou, which is famous for its freshwater West Lake. It is an inspirational home to many ancient Chinese mythical love stories. Hangzhou – famous for its sweet osmanthus flower, a source of perfume and tea – is also home to the monks. The region is known for its delicious vegetarian cuisine,” Mashhoor adds. His business travels this year will include trips to North African cities like Tunis, noted for its artisanal craftsmanship and home to several established and emerging designers. With east-meets-west, creativity flourishes here. “Tunisia is a truly inspiring place with breathtaking views of mountains meeting the shore. The cobbled streets, white houses with blue doors perched along the steep hills of Sidi Bou Said, bright red and lovely white bougainvillea climbers all make for a truly authentic Tunisian scenery,” says Mashhoor.
US-born and Riyadh raised Alaa Abanomi is a certified yoga master and holistic wellness practitioner, whose company Emtinan focuses on multidisciplinary health and wellness solutions in Saudi. Jeddah-based Alaa’s travels are often enveloped in tranquillity.
DESTINATION: Seoul, Korea
Travel, explains Alaa, refreshes the spirit and allows one to see everything with fresh eyes.
“It is inspiring to interact with different cultures.” This year, she is keen to pack her suitcase and fly to Seoul. But what draws Alaa to Seoul? “It’s one of Asia’s great cities, deeply traditional, creative, and incredibly cutting edge. I have a curious mind, and I’d love to explore the art, culture, and spiritual scene in Seoul. I also learned about an old tea master in Seoul and hope to visit him,” she says, adding tea ceremonies are close to her heart. The Milmila Yoga Center that creates a peaceful space for meditation in the heart of the city has yoga studios facing nearby Mount Namsan. No surprise that it tops her list of things to do in the country. Visiting the gorgeous Nami Island, Busan, expeditions to the local markets in Seoul, devouring Korean barbeque and delicious street food are also part of the forthcoming trip.
Portugal, according to Alaa, is underrated. The European gem has so much culture and history, and the oceans are breathtaking, she observes. “I love it very much. Also, Lisbon and Porto have some lovely hotels and restaurants, and the people are truly friendly. I have some friends living there, and I let them be my local guides.” On a recent holiday, she flew to Comporta and checked into a new property called Sublime Comporta. “It was truly sublime! The hotel, located near the ocean, is based on the concept of clean, eco-friendly, and organic living. Almost all the food is sourced from the hotel’s own garden or tends to be locally sourced produce. It suited my yogic lifestyle very much.”
The first thing that Alaa looks for during her travels are places that have good energy. “Sometimes, I research before I go to a destination, as I tend to choose ‘where to go’ based on the experiences that I’d like to have.” She is drawn to relaxation and peace. “I love soulful places with authentic people and experiences that inspire my heart and mind. If I find an authentic or traditional family-owned restaurant that has heart and serves the locals, I’d rather dine there than head to a Michelin-starred restaurant.” With her work centred on curating experiences in inspiring locations, she often scouts for such places during her travels. “I love physical activities, especially anything involved with nature.” Alaa likes to swim, indulge in rock climbing, and practice yoga on her travels. “When I visit beach destinations, I love to find secret, quiet beaches to meditate. I like to be alone in nature. I do love to hike up mountains for that breathtaking view away from it all.” With its sculpted rice terraces and vast beaches that inspire travellers to unwind amidst striking natural beauty, Bali, for Alaa, lived up to its hype. Athens, Corfu, or Beirut are other favourite holiday destinations – and who would complain where there is great food involved? “I love Mediterranean and Greek food,” says Alaa, who collects tea, incense, books, and musical instruments as souvenirs.
Kholoud Attar is the founder and creative director of KAAPH media house. A trailblazer in the region, Kholoud’s business acumen sees her shaping up local creative business, while also being a strong voice that promotes Saudi’s cultural and creative resurgence as well as its female entrepreneurs.
Copenhagen Little Mermaid, Copenhagen
DESTINATION: Copenhagen, Denmark
Kholoud is on a mission to explore the world and has already travelled to 85 countries. Her next trip is to Scandinavia.
“I have an elaborate bucket list,” she says. “I am so eager to see the Northern Lights and especially excited about the stay in an igloo hotel. I will be able to sleep underground with the Northern Lights visible from the igloo ceiling. There is also another hotel that I’d like to visit; it’s made entirely out of ice.” While in Scandinavia, she plans to check out the Treehotel and, of course, sip their famous hot drinks made from local berries and pine. In Copenhagen, she would love to see The Little Mermaid sculpture by Edvard Eriksen. Anything related to design is a hugely inspiring for Kholoud – and considering her background in design and art, she never skips an opportunity to visit design museums on her travels.
Last year, she travelled with a group of friends to Budapest and kicked off the trip at its iconic New York Café. “We then took a train ride to Vienna and went to see artist Gustav Klimt’s famous work, The Kiss. Last year, I attended a concert by Coldplay in Zurich, which was great.” Highlights from this past year included a family trip to Marbella, followed by a visit to Istanbul. “I was at the Baylan restaurant with my friends; we listened to Turkish music, reminisced the year, and soaked in the views of the Bosphorus,” Kholoud says, fondly. Each time she comes back from a trip, she feels “spiritually charged with visuals of the art, food, and music.” Travel inspires the go-getter in her work, prompting her to examine ongoing projects with a new perspective.
Vietnam, for a while, remained a mystery to Kholoud. She had long been hesitant to visit. “I had heard that the war had devasted Vietnam and soured its people, making them unfriendly. I had heard about the history of their famous egg coffee, but I was very reluctant to try it while there. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I loved Vietnam! Both the coffee and the people turned out to be refreshingly different: the coffee sweet and the people gracious. I urge everyone to try the street food in Hanoi and do end the food tour with coffee at an old café, located in the old quarter. The Note Coffee is covered up in Post-its pasted on the tables, chairs, and all over the interiors – these sticky notes are written and pasted by visitors who came here from across the world. This kept me wondering what message I would love to leave and, perhaps, come back years later and look for it. While in Vietnam, I’d recommend staying at the Aman resort on the coastline with the beach, mountains, forest, and the pond – the Amanoi is stunningly beautiful,” she says. Kholoud prefers to immerse herself in the culture of each place that she visits through its art, food, and most importantly, its people. She strikes up conversations with the locals to learn more about the city. “Thus, my day often starts somewhere and segues in an unplanned manner, and I imbibe the most local, cultural essence of the place, be it a restaurant or a museum,” she adds.
Lulu Al Hassan
Born in Eugene, Oregon, and raised in Saudi, Lulu Al Hassan is a luxury footwear designer. Since launching her shoe brand, Lu Vixen, the Jeddah-based designer has forayed into accessories and beauty. Lulu wears many hats in her career – TV presenter, media anchor, and now podcaster.
DESTINATION: Newport Beach, California and Korea
Lulu is enamoured with travel, which, she informs, melds into her design.
Travel, she adds, is a great way to add to the repository of experiences, knowledge, and words. She has a travel journal and jots down memories from each trip in it. “Anything that I see, smell, and touch – and everything along my travels – inspires me so much,” Lulu adds. In her conversations, she stresses that every destination she’s visited has not only changed her but has also lent inspiration to her footwear and accessory collections by way of vibrant colours, patterns, and textures. “Each time I work on a new design, my portfolio of trips adds an edge and interest to the design. Maybe that’s what makes my work stand out as a Saudi designer,” she muses.
Although Lulu has never lived in California and regularly travels to the US, she confesses to feeling like a quintessential “California girl.” “Something about that place is so me,” says the multi-hyphenate, sharing her summer travel plans to Newport Beach, LA, and Irvine. Korea, she points out, is another country that she would love to visit sometime soon. “I started a business with a beauty line, and I’m really fascinated with the culture. I make it a point to visit a country or city that I have never been to and build my own experiences around it; get to know people, make new contacts, friends and so on.”
London and Paris make her feel at home, always. “I love eating out in London and Paris very much. I love escargot – both cities have really good escargot. No wonder she loves spending a lot of time in the British capital. “I realised that every cuisine in London – Japanese, Mexican, Indian, Asian – has a distinct taste and different twist. Every kind of food there is so yummy,” she adds, with a chuckle. Lulu tends to avoid typical tourist-heavy places and restaurants. And people are her compass through the city.
She takes time to understand them; how they function and live. “How do they perceive us as Saudis, Arabs? What does the country have that we don’t back home in Saudi? These are questions I often find myself asking and trying to find more about.” The seasoned entrepreneur keenly explores business opportunities within each country. “What does the land have to offer that no other country can?” she wonders. “People’s tastes in music, their food, the spices they use in cooking and why?” Ask and learn, and you will discover so much more, she points out. Her motto is to learn everything about a culture, history, and art from an artistic and creative point of view. The way she affects this is by levelling up her skills. “I like to maximise my experience, even when I am on a holiday. I sign up for a short course, attend a workshop, or go for a seminar in the city I visit.”
For sit-down meals, Lulu chooses restaurants that aren’t often on every tourist’s radar. “I like to walk into a local restaurant and try different food. I don’t quite like to visit restaurants that are always highly recommended or have a four-star rating,” she clarifies. “I believe in trying out food that not everyone else would – I evolve my experiences my way, through my views. And that’s what I like to do when I travel,” says the footwear designer. “It needs to be personal.” With friends living in South Africa, Lulu visits the country every year. She reminisces her business trip to Guangzhou, China, when she visited shoe factories. “I wanted to learn about the factories, the manufacturing process, and check the quality of the products in person. It was a very inspiring trip. I got to understand women and their way of life. I was pretty surprised to see how submissive the women were. It was an insightful trip,” she reveals. Understanding varied cultures also enlightens her forthcoming podcast, where she plans to discuss socially relevant topics, especially those considered a taboo. “I want to put the spotlight on such topics.” Not many people know that Lulu is a certified moonologist. (Yes, there is such a thing.) Lulu plans her life and trips by referring to a moon calendar and drawing on lunar energy.