Clé Hunnigan, founder of The Wind Collective, a travel community based in the United Kingdom, said he didn’t realize he was on the verge of making history when he got a call from Gateway KSA to document a portion of Saudi Arabia that has been closed to the public for years.
Gateway KSA is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that opens the door to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, allowing distinguished guests the chance to experience the country from a unique perspective.
It was when Clé stepped foot in Mada’in Saleh that organizers informed him that he was the first black content creator to visit. Travel Noire caught up with him to hear more about his experience.
Travel Noire: What was your reaction when you found out that you were the first black content creator in Mada’in Saleh?
Clé: Initially, it was just surreal. It was an honor and quite humbling.
TN: Tell us more about your experiences during your trip.
Clé: It was absolutely surreal. We were in this desert amongst structures that were built more than 2,000 years ago.
It’s so crazy to think this 2,000-year-old structure exists right out in the middle of the desert in Saudi Arabia and so many people don’t know.
TN: How were you all selected?
Clé: Because of our work with the Wind Collective. We create a lot of videos about influencers. We pushed a project to them called “The Saudi I Know” about breaking the stereotypes and breaking the ideas of what people say about Saudi Arabia, the landscapes, and the people.
TN: What did you learn?
Clé: That there are experiences like no other in Saudi Arabia, like scuba diving for example. I also learned that the Abaya a lot of women wear actually is a symbol of freedom and many of them create it themselves.
TN: Any word on when it will open to the public?
Clé: So, currently there is a prospective idea that it could open up in 2020. That’s not confirmed yet. They’re still trying it out. I know for now that they’re cleaning it up and taking care of it to make sure it’s ready.
You can get in contact with Clé by following him on Instagram.
Editor’s Note: Mada’in Saleh is currently closed to the public while the Royal Commission develops the area to allow for future tourism.