Meet the man who believes we should all experience off-grid exploration of the Kingdom

Meet the man who believes we should all experience off-grid exploration of the Kingdom

Abdulrahman Al Saati is on a mission to redefine the concept of adventure and wellness – away from bright city lights and aboard a motorhome
19 March 24
Abdulrahman Al Saati

If you’re looking for lush greenery and rugged wilderness, a destination perfect for a few days of off-the-grid contemplation, Saudi may not be what immediately comes to mind.

For those with travel in mind, cities like Jeddah or Riyadh offer that charming desert-like climate, or you can explore the country’s mega-projects like NEOM, where it’s possible to experience cutting-edge technology in all its iterations. There’s also AlUla, for music festivals and grand-scale Instagram moments that will keep you entertained.

But where in the Kingdom can you go to truly disconnect?  

“Saudi is huge, a huge land. I cannot compare it to anywhere in the world. Each area has its own feeling, its own nature,” remarks Abdulrahman Al Saati from a motorhome parked in AlUla. The former surgeon turned adventure guide started creating unique sea and travel experiences in 2017 when he founded Destifind, with the growing community he was building. 

As the evening sets in, Al Saati lists his favourite Saudi destinations for grounding his soul – places that are challenging to reach and bear very few footprints. 

“Imagine two very high mountains, so high that when the sun rises and sets, it never hits you because of the shadows they cast. The mountain chain is long – long and lined with tall palm trees and the constant sounds of birds and sheep. It is very green, with soft yellow sands,” he describes with joy showing on his boyish face. Wadi Al Disah is one of several hidden gems where he takes a sleeping bag and slows down time. It is home to many ancient artefacts and sites from the Nabataean era. The best time to go is between November and March when the trail is accessible. 

 “The area has no signal, so every day I leave for one hour just to let people know that I'm OK. I make tea, do some cooking. You feel like you are grounded to the Earth,” the master scuba driver trainer explains. “It gets me thinking about life’s journey and makes my decisions clearer.”  

Al Saati draws us further into his world as he describes his trips to Hawiyat Namar Park, which is only accessible by 4x4. “Usually, we go with a minimum of three or four cars, because it's very common that an issue happens where a car gets stuck as it's a rocky area. We take our backpacks, tents, and supplies from the cars to the camping spot on multiple hikes. This kind of hardcore adventure, it suits me,” he points out, a common thread during our conversation. This remote spot is where Al Saati finds the most peaceful sleep. There are crickets and the trickle of a nearby creek, free from the sounds of cars and human activity.  

A deep sense of calm can also be found in Wadi Al Wahba, where an overnight camping trip allows for dramatic stargazing, and a fascinating (and often windy) hike takes you down into an 820-foot (250-metre) crater composed of deep volcanic lava fields. Like other sites, the optimal time to go is between November and June, when summer temperatures begin to climb up to 45°C.  

The Campervan Chronicles

The vehicle he is talking from is one of those available for rent. It is equipped with a queen-sized bed, two singles and a sofa bed, accommodating four to five people. When comparing the campervan experience with traditional camping, Al Saati highlights the comfort and convenience campervans provide. With equipped kitchens, bathrooms, and cosy sleeping arrangements, Destifind motorhomes offer a balance between adventure and luxury.  

For intrepid travellers, the company also has a converted Land Cruiser suitable for off-roading. It is ideal for Rub Al Khali, also known as the Empty Quarter, that vast sand desert that has served as a backdrop in films. Encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula, the hyper-arid desert covers some 650,000 sq km, includes parts of Saudi, Oman, the UAE, and Yemen, and is home to only the hardiest of creatures who can withstand the harsh conditions.  

Whichever trip they opt for, clients take a vehicle, map, some expert advice (which is key), and go off on a unique adventure for a few days, where there is at least the potential of disconnecting from the trappings of modern life.  

A simple backpack and sleeping on top of a mountain is not for everyone, from a commercial perspective. It is also not Al Saati’s day-to-day reality, so finding that level of inner peace is something he still must strive for, despite a seemingly leisurely career choice.  

One notable experience he recounts is a seven-day meditation trip with no connection, and more importantly, no speaking. “It was an extreme grounding experience, with no interaction except physical, no communication – only cooking, sleeping, sitting, and meditating,” he explains.  

Although he says he would only do it again for a shorter period of two or three days, he credits these kinds of trips for helping to regain a healthy mindset. “It made me realise how I'm going along with this fast pace of the world right now, and I needed to reconnect, slow down, and recalibrate my priorities. Two years ago, in my office, I wrote my top three priorities on the whiteboard: one is my health, two is my family and friends, three is everything else, like work, money, and growth.”   

A Transformative Journey

In the vast expanse of Saudi, where desert meets mountain and ancient landscapes intertwine with modern aspirations, Al Saati has carved out a unique niche for himself. From a background in medicine to becoming a scuba diving instructor, and eventually venturing into the world of entrepreneurship (today also serving as Destifind’s general manager), his journey is as diverse as the terrains he explores. 

Al Saati’s adventure passage began in 2010, when he became a scuba diving instructor while still in medical school. After two years as a general surgeon, he was ready to make a life-changing decision.  

He had an undeniable moment of clarity. “In the hospital environment, seeing all the doctors, you feel that life is sucked out of them. I asked myself if that’s where I wanted to be after 10 or 15 years. Do I want to always be on call, sleepless and tired? The answer was no. I'm a social person, I like adventure, I like to travel, I like to meet new people,” he says in a conclusion that doesn’t quite do justice to that moment of deep introspection he experienced – one that few people even have time to have or the courage to respond to. 

Al Saati recognised the potential of motorhomes, providing a self-sufficient solution for travellers to drive, sleep, and cook in their own accommodation. Destifind, with its unique campervan offerings, aimed to fill this gap and offer the freedom to explore Saudi like never before. 

Al Saati's journey showcases the transformative power of connecting with the self.

Through his lens, Saudi emerges as a treasure trove of diverse landscapes, challenging stereotypes, and inviting travellers to embark on unique adventures that go beyond physical luxury. Destifind not only provides a means of exploration but also encourages a mindful approach to travel – reconnecting with nature, disconnecting from the noise, and embracing the richness of each moment.