A couple of years ago, I am the only visitor at the ancient Arabian site of Ukhdood, which is also mentioned in the Quran. Despite being located right next to the city of Najran this once bustling metropolis is seldom visited by tourists – but this very fact is the reason why it is more or less in the same way that it perhaps was a hundred years ago.
But now as the country is opening up to tourists the number of people touring the site will increase and so will the garbage that accompanies them.
A couple of months later Jeddah’s new waterfront opens, I visit it and I see cleaners working around the clock to make sure that the place remains speck-free.
But they are being overburdened – the continuous flow of fizzy drink cans, tissues, and plastic bags that are being thrown by visitors are overpowering.
Sometimes, the marks left behind by tourists are such that they can’t be picked up by a cleaner and thrown in a trash can. The marks are permanent, which is the reason why many rock art sites have been cordoned off for tourists as visitors are adding graffiti to the kingdom’s famed ancient rock art that dates back thousands of years.
With the renewed interest that Saudi Arabia has for its tourism industry many dilapidated structures of the past are being restored to their full glory. But will they remain that way? That is the question we ought to be asking.
At the moment it doesn’t seem so, because it is not the temporary number of cleaners that will help maintain a place. Rather it is the mindset of the visitors.
Now, what can we do as a visitor to help make sure that others after us get to see the place just as we did?
The answer is by simply trying to leave it in the same or better condition than the one that we have just visited it in.
Saudi Arabia holds a lot of tourism potential so let’s be partners in its growth rather than a detriment.