My week-long adventure in Saudi Arabia for the Formula E
When my friend and racing driver Oliver Webb pinged me a message asking if I fancied coming to Saudi Arabia for the Formula E, there was only going to be one answer. Last week I went out the country as part of the Formula E race and these were my highlights:
Being from the UK, you tend to see more or less the same buildings. It’s the same in Europe once you've been to a fair few countries. So it was great to see the architecture, both of modern and older buildings.
The modern buildings resembled Dubai with their twists and reflective surfaces whilst the older buildings looked like they were centuries old. I cannot exactly remember how old the historical buildings were, but was told the new houses built with mud could last up to 100 years!
When you mention Saudi Arabia to anyone they immediately think everyone is going to be driving a supercar. This isn’t the case but in fact the majority of the higher end cars are Cadillac and Toyota SUVs. And no, this does not mean that everyone is driving up and down the dunes but it’s simply due to the car culture there. Of course people also want luxury during the heat, but having an SUV does come in handy when part of the road becomes sand.
We were mainly in Riyadh and it seemed like the supercars were hidden. We did see a fair few come out to play during the Formula E race which included a McLaren 675LT, a Ferrari 488 and a Lamborghini Urus. Other luxury cars included a two-tone Bentley Mulsanne and a Maybach. However the average car you would see would be Japanese cars such as Toyota Corollas covered in dust.
I love food, who doesn't. And we were fortunate enough to try various cuisine from day one, right as soon as we got on the plane. This was then followed by many lunches and dinners at various locations on our trip.
Everything from kebabs, chicken, beef, all sorts of rices including Biryani, salmon, lobster, sushi could be had, to name just a few. Just have a look at images below:
Flying To The Red Sea
As part of the itinerary, we were told that we would be flown to the Red Sea to see the private islands there. When we got to the private airport we saw a Learjet and got excited with our phones ready for Instagram photos. However little did we know that we would be flying in the private jumbo jet next to it, belonging to the government! This plane was something out of the movies with a bedroom, sofas, dining area and then the 'normal seats'.
When we got to the Red Sea development, it was just breathtaking to see the peaceful location where luxury apartments will shortly be built. We were actually one of the first people to set foot in this location, apart from the workers and of course the Saudi royals.
Formula E Dinner
If flying in a private plane was not enough, we were further wowed when we got the invitation to the Formula E dinner with the participants and special guests. The palace is only opened for special guests and royal events so it was certainly a once in a lifetime moment to not only visit the location but to have dinner with some very important people.
The Formula E Race
It was my first time ever attending a Formula E race so I did not know what to expect. Of course the first thing you notice is there is no sound. You kind of get used to it eventually whilst hearing the screeching of the tyres. That being said, even without sound the excitement was there but not as much as a Formula 1 race.
Formula E Closing Concert
The Formula E race was a remarkable day for Saudi Arabia, not only being hosted there for the first time but also being the first race of the season. The closing concert was just as big a deal, if not a bigger deal for Saudi Arabia. It was the first concert where both men and women were allowed to be mixed together. Despite everyone's opinion on the country without visiting it, it is certainly a step in the right direction and I can only see similar things happening as time goes on and the country prepares to open for tourism.
The concert was headlined by none other than One Republic and David Guetta! The opening stars were Black Eyed Peas (yes they're apparently still a thing), Jason Derulo and Amr Diab.
Motorsport events tend to attract celebrities and the Saudi Arabia Formula E was no different, especially with all the hype Formula E is getting. That being said, I bumped into Wayne Rooney during the Formula E dinner and saw the likes of Miguel and Sofia Ritchie during the race, as well as boxer Amir Kham. My favourite star-struck moment was meeting Scott Disick, as I just find him hilarious not to mention he has an epic car collection!
I cannot wait to see how tourism further develops within the country, with events such as Formula E aiding it. Having personally been there I found the country simply stunning and definitely recommend anyone to visit if and when you get the chance. I certainly will be as I feel there is still so much more to explore!