Rediscovering Saudi Arabia
Ibrahim Sarhan documents local archaeology, nature, culture
The Kingdom is full of historical sites, rich culture, and natural beauty. Aramco employee, Ibrahim Sarhan of the Jazan Ecomomic City Development Department, has traveled extensively, documenting it all with his camera. For Sarhan, urged on by a desire to document the beauty he sees and to share it with others, the camera serves as his main obsession and companion in extensive tours to document antiquities and cultural heritage.
Nature and artifacts as never seen before
With his lens, Sarhan has toured most of the Kingdom’s regions and taken special care to document its nature, antiquities, and local culture with a new perspective and unprecedented angles. From the sky in Hurra Kashab in the Makkah region, Sarhan took a startling picture that shows seven successive volcanic craters in a straight line, the first time for that formation to be seen from that angle. The image has been viewed millions of times on social media, and is celebrated by local and global parties interested in geology.
Sarhan has also photographed important archaeological sites around the Kingdom, some of which had not been spotlighted before. These include the mysterious circular stone installations as well as the colorful drawings in Jabal Shaqra Cave in Al-Raith Governorate, which required a three-day walk on foot to reach.
Documenting the local culture
To date, Sarhan has expanded his photographic archive to tens of thousands of photos, some of which he shares on social networks. Sarhan has made his photographic archive available for scientific research purposes to a number of researchers in the Kingdom and abroad.
He has also participated as a speaker in several intellectual, cultural, and artistic events at the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Foundation, Ithra, the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue, the Saudi Film Festival, and a number of Saudi universities.
Global honors and participations
Sarhan’s photos have received millions of posts on social media, as well as appearances in local and foreign published books, and photographic and cultural exhibitions. His photographs have also been featured during important occasions.
At the Dubai Expo, 40 of his photos were displayed on the frontage of the Saudi pavilion, representing the archaeology and natural beauty of the Kingdom. A collection of his pictures were also displayed on the main street screens as part of the “Kingdom of Cultures” initiative of the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) on National Day 2020.
Sarhan was also honored by the CEO of the Heritage Authority for his contributions to cultural heritage, and he recently received an honor from His Royal Highness Prince Faisal bin Meshaal Al Saud, the Prince of Qassim Region, in the “Qudwa” Award event. The event is an activity to enhance intellectual security in Qassim to encourage positive and meaningful content.
Inspiration from the outside in
While Sarhan is now known for his exploration of Saudi Arabia’s archaeological and natural sites, he began his journey as a photographer who toured many countries of the world, intent on the rare, strange and amazing, and narrating his photographs and video presentations with his observations of those countries. Now, he has dedicated all his energy to the wonders of the Kingdom.
Regarding this shift from the external to the internal, Sarhan says: “The trips around the most important places of culture and archeology in the world were an intense training. They inspired me to reconsider what is around me and to search for something new. I have always believed that there is cultural richness in Saudi Arabia behind every appearance that seems at first familiar, and I am always surprised by what I come up with every time. And I have always believed that the most stunning spots have not yet been discovered.”
Sarhan joined Aramco in 2012, during which he moved through a number of its projects and departments in Dhahran and Thuwal. More recently, Sarhan has been working at the Jazan refinery complex, and it is there that his photos that reflect the culture of the region adorn the walls of the company’s buildings and facilities.
Caption of the top image: Sunrise on Haroob Mountains, Jazan Region.