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The Old Town of AlUla

Discover AlUla: Saudi Arabia’s Ancient Gem Transforming into a Luxury Travel Oasis (2024)

In the heart of the Arabian Peninsula lies AlUla, an oasis of history, culture, and natural beauty. This ancient city, once a forgotten gem, has emerged as a focal point of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to open its doors to the world of tourism. With its stunning archaeological sites and ambitious development plans, AlUla is quickly becoming a destination of choice for discerning travelers seeking an encounter with the authentic and the ancient.

The Timeless Allure of AlUla

AlUla has been a silent witness to the march of civilizations for millennia. Nestled within the sandstone mountains and fertile valleys of northwestern Saudi Arabia, it has been a crossroads of trade, cultures, and ideas. The remnants of the Nabataean civilization in AlUla, particularly the Hegra site, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, stand as a testament to the region’s historical significance.

The Archaeological Wonders of AlUla

Hegra: The Nabataean City of Echoes

Hegra, known as Al-Hijr in ancient times, was a major trading hub of the Nabataean kingdom, second only to the capital, Petra. Visitors to Hegra can marvel at over 100 well-preserved tombs carved into colossal sandstone outcrops, bearing inscriptions that have withstood the ravages of time. The most iconic of these is the Tomb of Lihyan, son of Kuza, which is renowned for its monumental scale and intricate facade.

The Old Town of AlUla

A labyrinth of ancient dwellings, the Old Town of AlUla offers a unique glimpse into the traditional way of life. The mudbrick and stone houses, some dating back to the 12th century, are a chronicle of the town’s endurance through the ages. As restoration efforts continue, the Old Town is set to become a living museum of Arabian heritage.

The Lost Lioness of AlUla

Recently unearthed, a striking life-sized lion sculpture—believed to be over 2,000 years old—has been dubbed the ‘Lioness of AlUla.’ This discovery has only added to the mystique of the region, hinting at the presence of other yet-to-be-discovered treasures.

The Natural Splendors of AlUla

Beyond history, AlUla is a sanctuary for nature lovers. The landscape is an interplay of desert expanses, lush oases, and striking rock formations. Adventure seekers can explore the canyons and climb the sandstone cliffs, while those seeking tranquility can embark on serene nature walks through the oasis, where palm trees sway and ancient water wells remind of sophisticated agricultural practices long past.

The Vision for Tourism

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan for diversification includes a significant focus on developing AlUla as a premium tourist destination. With the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) at the helm, the city is undergoing a transformation that balances preservation with modernization. Infrastructure is being developed with sensitivity to the natural and historical context, ensuring that growth is sustainable and environmentally responsible.

The Emerging Cultural Scene

AlUla is not only about the past; it’s a burgeoning hub for contemporary culture. The annual AlUla Arts Festival attracts artists and performers from around the world, turning the city into a vibrant canvas of creative expression. The Maraya Concert Hall, a marvel of modern architecture with its mirrored walls reflecting the desert landscape, is a venue for international concerts and events.

Luxury Meets Heritage

Catering to the luxury market, AlUla is home to high-end resorts that blend seamlessly into the landscape, offering world-class amenities alongside immersive cultural experiences. From fine dining featuring traditional cuisine to spas that use local ingredients, every aspect of a stay in AlUla is curated to create a connection with the locale.

Responsible and Sustainable Tourism

As AlUla steps onto the global stage, sustainability is a cornerstone of its tourism strategy. Initiatives to protect its natural and archaeological sites are in place, ensuring that the influx of tourists contributes positively to the region’s legacy.


AlUla is an emblem of the rich tapestry of history, nature, and culture that Saudi Arabia has to offer. With each archaeological discovery, every cultural event, and the ongoing sustainable development, AlUla is not just emerging as a major tourist hub; it is setting a new benchmark for how travel can be an enriching and enlightening bridge between the past and the present. For the discerning traveler, AlUla is more than a destination; it’s an awakening to a civilization that has much to teach the world about beauty, endurance, and the timeless human spirit.

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