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The Siq of Madain Saleh

Brendon Hayward


Behind the Shot

After years of controversy and compromise, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was poised to open its borders to tourists from 50 countries, including the United States, in late 2019 as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 initiative. Although it was already open to tourists on religious pilgrimages, foreign dignitaries and specially invited guests, the Kingdom had remained almost entirely closed to nonreligious tourists.

Through Gateway KSA, an NGO that specializes in cultural exchanges, Saudi Arabia kicked off the effort by inviting Instagram influencers to the country as part of a multibillion-dollar effort to reform its image in the West.