Instagram is the perfect place to go for travel inspiration, but we often tend to follow fellow travellers from our own country or region as opposed to local people, who usually have much greater insight into the best places to go and show a more nuanced view of the local culture.
The travel industry (and particularly the ‘influencer’ space) has been accused by many of being overwhelmingly white, giving rise to debates around ‘passport privilege’ – the idea that people from ‘western’ countries like the US and Europe have greater freedom to travel based on the power of their passports. Exclusively following white and western travellers can contribute to inequalities in the industry, as well as excluding local perspectives and perpetuating harmful stereotypes. This is particularly the case when the country or region in question is highly complex and widely misunderstood, like many countries of the Middle East.
The Middle East is becoming an increasingly popular destination for travellers, as regional countries are investing in the industry and opening their doors to tourists from around the world. Following local bloggers, vloggers and social media influencers is a brilliant and easy way to support diversity and inclusiveness in the travel industry, whilst also giving you a more balanced insight into the diverse geography, cultures and peoples of the region.
If you’re interested in travel in the Middle East, make sure you’re following these 7 Instagrammers sharing beautiful photographs and local perspectives on the countries where they live and document their adventures.
Hessah al-Ajaji | @hessahalajaji
📍 Saudi Arabia
Language: Arabic / English
Follow for: dispelling stereotypes of Saudi women
Hessah al-Ajaji is a Saudi traveller and Instagrammer who shares her adventures across Saudi Arabia on her Instagram page. She showcases the spectacular geographical and cultural diversity of this widely misunderstood country from a local perspective. From the idyllic islands and coral reefs of the Red Sea to the foggy mountains and flower men of the southern provinces, her Instagram will bump Saudi Arabia to the top of your must-visit list!
Alex Reza Shams | @alex_shams
Follow for: history & culture
Alex Reza Shams is an Iranian-American PhD student based in Tehran and the Editor of Ajam Media Collective. On his Instagram, he shares candid photos of life on the streets of Tehran and documents his travels around the Islamic Republic of Iran and insights into Iranian history and culture. If visiting Iran is on your bucket list, make sure you’re following him!
Rawan Da’as | @rawandaas
Language: English / Arabic
Follow for: outdoor adventures
Rawan Da’as is a Jordan photographer and avid hiker showcasing the magical natural beauty of Jordan. Unlike most of the foreign Instagrammers who visit Jordan, for Rawan, Petra and Wadi Rum are just the beginning of the story. She always manages to find the most beautiful nature spots and hiking trails in the Kingdom, as well sharing tips on the best places to visit and eat in the capital – and her home city – Amman.
Abdulrahman Al-Hinai | @image.om
Language: English / Arabic
Follow for: local stories & village life
Abdulrahman Al-Hinai is a documentary photographer based in Oman whose stunning photos capture the stories of people from all walks of life across the Sultanate. The Omani people are incredibly welcoming and hospitality is a huge part of the local culture. Having said that, Omani society is relatively conservative and it can take time to develop the kinds of relationships that give foreigners a genuine first-hand insight into Omani life. Following Abdulrahman will widen your perspective of Oman before you even set foot in the Sultanate.
Ahmet Erdem | @ahmet.erdem
Follow for: pure wanderlust
Ahmet Erdem is a Turkish professional photographer based in Istanbul his stunning photos showcase the myriad of different scenery Turkey has to offer, from rolling fields of sunflowers to red brick cityscapes to pristine white beaches – follow him for guaranteed wanderlust!
Ghalia Abbas | @ghaliasphotos
Follow for: ocean vibes & drone photography
Ghalia Abbas is an Emirati travel photographer, nature lover, diver and self-declared ocean addict. Her absolutely stunning drone photographs in particular show travel in the UAE from whole new perspective, taking you away from the pool parties of Dubai to showcase a more natural and rugged side to the Emirates. Think bird’s eye views of Abu Dhabi’s mangroves and glorious, green oases in the desert…
Roger Anis – @rogeranis
Language: English & Arabic
Follow for: local stories & people
Roger Anis is a photojournalist and storyteller based in Egypt. Forget the clichéd images of camel-riding at the Pyramids or posing at Luxor’s Karnak Temple; Roger’s striking photos take you off the tourist trail to help you understand what life in Egypt is like for people you’ll meet there. He’s an essential person to follow if you want to gain a deeper understanding of the country before visiting as a tourist.
Did we miss anyone?! Let us know if there’s anyone else you think we should be following in the Middle East and North Africa in the comments below.
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