With summer temperatures rising as high as 50˚C in the Gulf, many Arab families see this as an ideal opportunity to head for cooler climes.
While London is a perennially popular summer getaway, in recent years a far less obvious destination has found favour with Middle Eastern travellers: the sleepy Alpine town of Zell am See in Salzburg, Austria.
With lush fields and forests providing an abundance of greenery and picturesque snow-capped mountains reflecting in the crystal clear waters of a calm lake, the idyllic town – as well as nearby Kaprun – provides the perfect antidote to the blistering heat of the Gulf.
That’s why Zell am See – and its now famous Grand Hotel Zell Am See – located in the Austrian state of Salzburg with a local population of fewer than 10,000, has seen a huge influx in the number of Arab visitors in the past decade, now welcoming around 70,000 tourists from the GCC every summer.
The garden of the Grand Hotel Zell Am See. Most of the Arab tourists stay at this hotel which is located directly next to the lake.
Apart from the massive financial boost for the region, many of the GCC’s tourists also like to mix with the locals, turning the town into a fascinating melting pot of crossed cultures – one which photographer Marieke van der Velden couldn’t help but notice on her recent visit there.
In fact, she was so taken with the unusual sight of the desert-dwelling guests revelling in such unfamiliar Alpine surroundings that she teamed up with journalist Saskia Adriaens to document a typical summer in Zell am See.
Named ‘Das Paradies’ – referring to the town’s Muslim-centric tourism marketing slogan, “Paradise as the Quran intended” – the photographer’s series of images, accompanied by Adriaens’ captions, gives us a glimpse of exactly why Arab tourists are heading in their thousands to the sleepy Salzburg towns of Kaprun and Zell am See.