On her maiden trip to Saudi Arabia, Pooja Hegde couldn’t help but marvel at the overwhelming beauty of AlUla’s virgin landscape. If she had to put it in one word, she’d call it “magnificent” but Hegde lets us in on more than that. By Rashima Nagpal

What were your initial thoughts about a trip to Saudi Arabia?

Honestly, I first thought: what’s there to see? But when the T+L team sent me the reference pictures, I was stunned, and couldn’t wait to shoot there.

Modern cities or destinations rich in heritage: what is your cup of tea?

Both. London and New York are my favourite cities in the world. But I also have immense respect and admiration for heritage sites like this one [AlUla]. It is wise to realise the significance of such places and be a little sensitive about what they have to offer.

Pooja Hegde AlUla
The actor in the glow of the golden hour, before sunset.

What do you think of emerging offbeat destinations like AlUla?

Had I not come here, I wouldn’t have known what I’m missing out on. But now, I must say that those who haven’t been here yet are missing out on something extraordinarily beautiful. If it is in favour of the locals’ sentiments, then why not promote tourism in such destinations? I’m glad that the government is doing it.

If you had to put AlUla in the same bucket as some other destinations, which would they be?

Utah would be one; it’s similar. The landscape is just as dramatic, but the vibe is different. The good thing about this [AlUla] is that it’s only six hours away, and America, of course, requires 24 hours. Then there’s Istanbul. Just like AlUla, it took my breath away and is more beautiful than expected.

A travel experience on your bucket list?

I want to hold a panda! It’s like my spirit animal.

Your greatest fear?

Heights and clowns!

What kind of a traveller are you?

I’m quite adventurous when it comes to my trips. And I like to plan every second of my holiday. Anyone travelling with me ends up exhausted, because I go far and wide to explore, and make the most out of the place.

What is the most offbeat location that you’ve been to?

AlUla! It wasn’t on my list, which is why I have found it all the more surprising.

Pooja Hegde AlUla

What is your earliest travel memory?

Travelling from Mumbai to Mangaluru regularly to visit our relatives, in a red Maruti car.

What is it that you love most about travelling?

It is the fact that we live in our own little shells and travelling opens you up like nothing else.

Things you do not travel without?

A battery backup! Everything else is figureoutable.

HEDGE’S FAVOURITE DESTINATION

For Food: New York

For Shopping: London

For A Detox: Bali

Related: Here’s Why You Must Visit The Magical City Of AlUla In Saudi Arabia!