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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Al-WAJH: Residents of Al-Wajh are hopeful that the Dakar Rally 2020, which began on Sunday, will attract investors to the coastal Saudi city.
Some residents have expressed delight at seeing big names of the annual sporting event in their city.
Receptionist Talal Al-Aradi said he has started to see new guests coming to Al-Wajh and asking about the rally.
“It’s apparent that this international event has given our small city the attention it deserves. Many Saudis may know little about Al-Wajh, but with the rally going through it, it will become famous enough and it will be a tourist destination,” he told Arab News.
Abdullah Al-Balawi, who has just returned to his city after finishing an English-language course in the UK, said he is optimistic that Al-Wajh will soon be an important destination on the Saudi tourism map.
“The annual long-distance off-road racing event will for sure add a lot to Saudi Arabia. It will shed light on the country’s most beautiful places, beginning from Jeddah to the finishing line at Qiddiya. The people of Al-Wajh are so lucky that their city is part of this big sports event,” he told Arab News.
Sultan Al-Maslamani, a chemistry student at Tabuk University who is spending his vacation with his family in Al-Wajh, said he is excited to see international motorists going through his place of birth, which many of his friends have heard little about.
“Like many of my friends, I don’t have a full idea about the rules of the race and the categories of the vehicles. However, the people here have started to talk about the event and the motorists taking part in it,” he told Arab News.
“The name of the Saudi driver, Yazeed Al-Rajhi, who we wish good luck, has become more popular than ever.”
Al-Maslamani said the young people of Al-Wajh are ambitious, and this event may inspire some of them to become famous rally drivers.
But he expressed hope that seeing the competitors driving aggressively will not negatively affect young drivers on the city’s streets.
“They have to understand that safety is a priority to the rally drivers, who’ve been professionally trained on such off-road activities,” he said.
“Moreover, these professional motorists are using trucks or motorbikes that are purpose-built and heavily modified to meet the toughest driving conditions on inhospitable terrain.”
The rally began in Jeddah and will end in Qiddiya on Jan. 17. In the past year, Saudi Arabia has increasingly opened its doors to international tourism and world-class sports and entertainment events, as part of its efforts to diversify the nation’s economy.
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