All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s hidden gem, Alula

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) officially launched one of the world’s most significant heritage and culture destinations to the Indian media through a virtual media launch event which was addressed by Melanie de Souza, Executive Director, Destination Marketing; Dr Rebecca Foote, Director, Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Research from RCU and Huzan Fraser Motivala and Beena Menon, India Representatives of RCU. 

AlUla, the world’s masterpiece, is a living museum that holds 200,000 years of largely unexplored human history. The vast desert landscape features preserved tombs, sandstone outcrops, historic dwellings and monuments, both natural and human-made. As part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, it has been decreed that the priceless heritage and nature-based experiences of AlUla will be shared with visitors who will now have the opportunity to experience a living museum and a unique journey through time.

Melanie de Souza stated, “AlUla is a destination of global heritage significance that was officially re-opened in October 2020 as a year-round destination. For years, Saudi Arabia has played home to religious tourism, after all this is the birthplace of Islam, but leisure tourism is certainly on the agenda in this country as part of a very ambitious vision 2030. The first tourist visas to the country became available in 2019 and we expect there to be a lot of interest in visiting a hitherto unknown destination post-pandemic.”

RCU has appointed Beautiful Planet Destination Marketing LLP as their India Representative to handle the Marcom and Travel Trade activities in India.

Huzan Fraser Motivala said, “We are thrilled to be chosen as the India representative for The Royal Commission for AlUla to market this new and exciting destination. We aim to showcase AlUla, as a destination for Indian travellers seeking unique experiences and AlUla is a natural intersection of human ingenuity and stunning nature as one living environment.”

AlUla’s landscape is as monumental as its history. AlUla is home to a series of fascinating historical and archaeological sites. It is a cradle of human history offering a bounty of ancient and traditional cultural and artistic charms. The first UNESCO World Heritage of Saudi Arabia, Hegra was the centre of the Nabatean kingdom in the region. The awe-inspiring carved tomb facades of the Nabateans can still be seen today in perfectly preserved detail. The history and heritage of AlUla is evidenced by a recent documentary by Discovery Channel, ‘The Architects of Ancient Arabia’ that revealed human civilization’s first building blocks were set in place in AlUla.

‘The Architects of Ancient Arabia’ journeys into Saudi Arabia’s deeper past, following teams of leading international and Saudi archaeologists and a local historian as they reveal new wonders in the previously unexplored land.      

Dr Rebecca Foote commented, “We already know things about the major sites like Hegra, but I hope that the team’s work and this documentary begin to fill in gaps in our knowledge in the late pre-historic period, when societies are becoming more complex. Archaeologists are just beginning to reveal the secrets and stories held within the desert of this stunning landscape, there is much more to discover.”

AlUla’s vast open spaces provide the perfect backdrop for safe, fun, exploration with more experiences opening up over the coming months. AlUla’s new zipline experience has caused quite a stir among adventure seeking travellers. One of the longest in the world, visitors will race along to a speed of over 100km/h while enjoying the incredible scenery of the Hijaz Mountain range – this one is not for the faint-hearted. Other adventure experiences include a range of hiking trails, cycling trails, a bike park, and horse treks.

Far away from city lights in the vast open space of AlUla’s remote Gharameel desert lands, a magical evening of stargazing is a must-do experience for nature lovers. Led by a star expert, visitors will learn about the constellations and their relation to the ancient land’s culture and history as they marvel at the brilliance of the dark sky sprinkled with infinite stars. 

As a one-of-a-kind destination, AlUla is destined to become an events hub for the region that attracts world-class entertainment and events. AlUla’s rich history has been on full display during the iconic Winter at Tantora, an exhilarating festival which ran over two consecutive years – 2019 and 2020 between December and March. It has been a three-month festival spanning sport, music, food, heritage, and modern art. The highlight of the festival has been the opportunity to experience world-class musical performances (such as Lionel Richie, Enrique Iglesias), art installations, spectacular hiking trails, hot air ballooning and more. Recently, the world’s most beloved tenor, Maestro Andrea Bocelli performed at Hegra. It was the first time Bocelli shared the stage with his daughter Virginia and son Matteo. The concert marked the third successive year that Bocelli has performed in AlUla.

AlUla is easily accessible by flight from Riyadh, Madinah and Jeddah. Recently, AlUla International Airport has been approved to receive international flights. RCU has increased the airport’s annual capacity by 300% from 100,000 to 400,000 passengers per year making it a fifth largest airport in Saudi Arabia.


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