You know those Instagram accounts that make you want to book a week of leave?

We’ve found another one, and it belongs to 31-year-old Leah Schmidt, who’s from Washington State in the US, but lived for four years in Saudi Arabia. Her images of the kingdom are beautiful, and they provide an insight into a country that is often represented in a one-dimensional way.

Schmidt, who’s 31, wound up living in Saudi Arabia after evacuating Libya in 2011. An English teacher by trade, she’s got a degree in Arabic.

 

“I simply needed a job,” she says of her decision to settle in the kingdom. However, she quickly fell in love with the country. “Each time I thought I might leave I found there was more to see and do.”

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Living first in Riyadh and then in Al Ahsa, Schmidt became more serious about photography.

“I really wanted to share what I was seeing and experiencing,” she says. “I started to find more Saudi photographers and they inspired me to work on my photos to become better.”

Once she got going, Schmidt found she loved recording Saudi Arabia’s diversity, both in terms of places and people.

“Saudi Arabia is talked about as a very singular entity but that is very untrue. It is much more colorful, dynamic, creative and welcoming than most outside commentators paint it as,” she says. “It is hard to change old stereotypes, but if there is anywhere to look at with an open mind then this is the country!”

Schmidt’s images are beautiful in their own right, but they become even more compelling when you consider where they were taken. This is another Saudi Arabia.

Leah Schmidt’s favourite photos in her own words

“This is from a horse festival in Tabuk. It’s such an extraordinary place – all huge rocks and red sands. It had been a very long, hot day and nothing was working photographically, then this rider stopped to watch the action. I love the colours and expression.”

“It’s not well known that in Al Ahsa they grow a rare red rice. It’s very expensive and produced on a very small scale. It took a long time to find a local photographer to show me a farm.”

 
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“This is during the rose festival in Taif. In mid March they harvest roses to make rose oil, perfume and rose water. Everything is done by hand and it only lasts for a few weeks. It is a huge attraction for Saudi and foreign tourists – everyone waits to touch the roses and be showered in them. Our guide was local and couldn’t wait to play in the roses.”

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Images: Leah Schmidt/Instagram