The Financial Times today published a special report titled Investing in the Arab World. My contribution to the report is this story on how recent Saudi reforms and easing of social restrictions are unlocking previously untapped sectors like tourism and entertainment, making them more attractive to local and foreign investors.
Part of the reporting for that piece was done in Taif, the city that used to serve as Saudi Arabia’s summer capital before air conditioning technology arrived to the kingdom. I spent a couple of days there, staying at the InterContinental which was built in the 1970s and where it still feels like the 1970s. Now I may complain about the old hotel but I can’t deny its charm.
Taif is known for its pleasant weather and bright pink roses that produce a fragrant oil used to make perfumes and soap. The city is also home to Souk Okaz, a pre-Islamic Arab market where poets used to compete against each other. The government has been organising a festival on its site for the past 12 years, and officials hope it will become a major tourist attraction one day.