AlUla, the historical crossroad of ancient civilisations, has officially reopened for visitors this weekend and The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) has unveiled the full suite of experiences that are being phased in over the coming months.
Heritage sites, Hegra, Jabal Ikmah and Dadan are the first to reopen for bookings.
The Hegra experience includes full immersion into the Nabataean ways of life at sites including the most iconic, Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza, plus Jabal Ithlib, The Diwan, Jabal Alhamar and the well.
Hop-on, hop-off transportation stops at seven areas of significance for visitors to explore at their leisure.
Visitors can download the Experience AlUla app for an immersive location specific digital guide, or have a Rawi (Arabic storyteller) provide a more personal tour of the sites in English or Arabic.
By the end of November, a handicraft pavilion at Hegra will also host a series of interactive activations designed to provide an entertaining appreciation for the Nabataean Kingdom and ways of life. These will include:
At the ancient city of Dadan, the capital city of the Dadanite and Liyhanite Kingdoms and one of the most developed cities in the 1st millennia BCE, visitors will get the chance to become an archaeologist for the day.
Archaeologists began extensive excavations at Dadan in February 2020 to explore this relatively unknown period in AlUa’s 200,000 years of human history. From December, a family-friendly 40-minute ‘Archaeology for Everyone’ workshop will have kids digging for artefacts to get in on the action. There will also be live immersion shows, audio tours and visitors will have the opportunity to tour the extensive site in a vintage jeep.
Other experiences announced for later in the year include camel tours of key tombs and night-time experiences including light shows and night-time markets.
From late December, parts of AlUla Old Town will be open to the public. While full conservation is-ongoing, the visitor experience will include Rawi tours of Tantora Plaza and sundial and views from AlUla citadel; the opportunity to experience a bustling Suq, a handicraft pavilions and souvenirs to shop for, as well as new dining options.
Outside of the heritage sites, there will be plenty of other activities to keep visitors entertained.
A new Adventure Canyon area will offer a suite of experiences for those looking for high-energy thrills.
Keen hikers can book a space on the Adventure Hiking Trail. Run by experienced tour operator Husaak, the trail offers a half-day hike led by an experienced guide through the AlMadakeel landscapes with stops for stunning views of the desert and oasis.
From mid-November, visitors will be able to book an evening Stargazing tour at AlGharameel rocks. Famous as one of the most dramatic landscapes for stargazing, the one hour experience, also run by Husaak, includes a traditional Bedouin set-up with an expert guide to provide insights about the importance of the stars and constellations in AlUla’s culture and history.
Another trail available from mid-November is the leisurely two-hour Cycling Trail which runs through palm groves and citrus trees. A Horse-Riding Trail through the desert and surrounding mountains is also slated for later in the year.
From December, visitors will be able to appreciate the landscapes, rock art, dunes and peaks of the desert while zipping around in a classic dune buggy. These fun three-person vehicles are a great way to sightsee. Also, a zipline through the canyons and a family-fun bump and pump bike track is being constructed at the new Adventure Canyon by experienced operators Warrior.
For a more relaxing experience, the AlUla Fresh Farm visit offers visitors a glimpse into life on an AlUla farm complete with farm tours, fruit picking, animal feeding and seed planting. From the 2.3 million date palms trees to the 29 types of citrus fruit, farms play an important role in AlUla’s economy and daily life.
AlUla will also welcome new permanent experiences in the arts and cultural space. The former AlUla Secondary School for girls near AlUla Old Town is being transformed into an arts and traditional crafts hub.
With founding partners The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts, and under the guidance of Turquoise Mountain, specialists in reinvigorating traditional crafts, nearly 50 local artisans have been trained in ceramics, palm weaving, textiles and jewellery-making.
The crafts men and women are creating beautiful heritage collections that reflect the unique history, architecture and nature of the area, using locally sourced materials when possible. The Artisans Workshops in AlUla will eventually be offered to visitors too and will include classes from design to jewellery making and the revival of ancient handicrafts such as ceramics, embroidery and weaving.
Restaurants have also been given careful consideration and further announcement are to be made in the coming weeks about some exciting new dining options. In the meantime, key local cafes Barzan and AlMahkar Cafe and Park are working with RCU to ensure a year-round offer of fabulous local cuisine. A Winter Park area will include pop-up food trucks for a more casual grab and go eating option.
Accommodation options in the short term include tented desert resorts, Sahary AlUla Resort, Shaden Resort and self-catered RVs for unique outdoor immersion. From January 2021, the exciting modular-designed eco-resort Habitas AlUla will be available and Ashar Resort will return with new rooms and suites added.
Prices for the heritage sites have been set at rates applicable to the experiences available at the time of booking. Concessions are available for children and AlUla residents. Visitors are advised to sign-up to experiencealula.com to get the latest updates.