As the Royal Commission for Al-Ula (RCU) continues to develop Al-Ula into a pre-eminent global tourism destination; the Saudi residents who will be the first to experience reopening one of the undiscovered wonders of the world.
AlUa; an open-air museum in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, which includes the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. In October this year, it will officially re-open and welcome visitors.
While some attendees of Al-Ula’s Winter at Tantora annual arts festival got access to the archeological sites in the event’s first two years; now for the first time, Al-Ula’s landmarks of unprecedented historical and cultural significance and its 250,000 years of human legacy will be accessible to all visitors all year round.
With a focus firmly on conservation and responsible tourism; since 2017 RCU has been transforming Al-Ula into a must-visit culture and heritage destination.
Visitors will be able to access the main heritage sites, cultural touring options and a range of adventure experiences.
Phillip Jones, Chief Destination Officer, RCU said, “With the rebound of the travel sector undoubtedly starting close to home, KSA residents within a drive or a short flight of Al-Ula will get a headstart on experiencing the raw, natural beauty and monumentality of landscapes in their backyard.”
Overnight visitors can choose from five accommodation providers each with its own take on desert luxury. Al-Ula’s accommodation stock is to progressively increase to more than 9,400 rooms by 2035.
Al-Ula’s Four key heritage
The four key heritage sites that visitors will now be able to access are, Hegra, an UNESCO World Heritage site since 2008; Dadan, probably one of the most developed 1st millennium BCE cities of the Arabian Peninsula; Jabal Ikmah, often referred to as the ‘Lihyanite library’, offering insights to ancient beliefs, rituals and practices of every-day life; as well as Old Town; the ancient walled city of Al-Ula which has been at the crossroad of civilizations from the 12th century CE.
Al-Ula’s immersive experiences will however extend beyond the heritage sites. Walks, treks and trails will be available — both guided by the local Rawi (Arabic storyteller) or self-guided for visitors who want to delve deeper into the stories and customs of the region.
“We are developing immersive, light-touch experiences that harness the power and silence of the landscapes, experiences like guided stargazing in a desert night sky that has inspired science, religion, philosophy, art as well as literature for millennia.”
Adventure tourists will also get care, whether it’s tearing around the sandscapes in a desert buggy, or taking to the skies in a vintage light aircraft to see volcanic craters and keyhole tombs in the lava fields of Harrat Khaybar.
For families; Hijrat Noura; or Princess Noura Farm, located close to Hegra offers a chance to get up close and personal with the local flora and fauna.
Winter at Tantora festival
Winter Park; an experience developed for the Winter at Tantora festival will also make a comeback. As a more permanent attraction offering a casual open-air atmosphere for food trucks as well as art installations.
After a day of sightseeing, visitors can stroll through the cool and sheltered oasis; a green canopy of palm grove where the air is full with the scent of dates; orange; and mint grown nearby.
Dining options also include local restaurants, many featuring produce sourced from nearby farms.
For the business tourism market, Maraya is a wonder of the architectural world, is a multi-use 500 seat events venue. It is covered in 10,000 sq. metres of mirrors, reflecting the surrounding landscape. Maraya is also scheduled to re-open in December 2020.
“A visit to Al-Ula is a transformative experience to all who have visited. Its vast open spaces; its secrets of civilisations gone by and the pure wonder of its landmarks – both old and new,” said Jones.