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The First Historic Sites In Saudi’s AlUla To Start Welcoming Visitors

Visiting AlUla is set to be an enjoyable and seamless experience and the local community have a chance to revisit their heritage sites before the rest of the world…

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) has confirmed AlUla, one of country’s most important archaeological and cultural destinations, will be re-opening its ancient heritage sites on 31 October.

The commission has named some of the first sites to re-open to the public in the vast area that covers 22,561km², including a lush oasis valley, towering sandstone mountains and the important sites that date back thousands of years. As Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra is the most recognised name on the list. The 52-hectare ancient city was the principal southern city of the Nabataean Kingdom and is comprised of nearly 100 well preserved tombs with elaborate facades cut into sandstone outcrops. Current research suggests Hegra was the most southern inland outpost of the Romans after conquering the Nabataeans and their capital at Petra in 106 CE. The ancient kingdom of Dadan will also be welcoming visitors. The capital of the Dadan and Lihyan Kingdoms is considered one of the most developed 1st-millennium BCE cities of the Arabian Peninsula. The whispering canyons of Jabal Ikmah, another spot that has been largely closed off to visitors for two plus years, will become accessible at the end of October too. Meanwhile, AlUla Old Town will be open as a visitor experience to the public for the first time from December 2020.

In another move to realise tourism ambitions, RCU, which was established in 2017 to protect and safeguard AlUla, has announced the area's residents will have the opportunity to access the sites for free on 30 October for the entire opening weekend.

Visitors are encouraged to sign up to to be first to hear when bookings become available for the heritage sites and when other bookable experiences are live. During a trip to AlUla, they will be able to enjoy significant airport enhancements, new comfortable transport options around town and the heritage sites, as well as information provision at two new visitor centres. AlUla’s new Quality Assurance Program also ensures visitors will receive a warm and professional AlUla welcome.

Significant COVID safety measures have been put in place that adhere to the Ministry of Health protocols, which align with the ‘safe travels’ guidelines published by the World Travel and Tourism Council. Procedures include required pre-booking of tickets, temperature checks at the airport, distancing and limitations of visitors at heritage and other sites, increased sanitation measures and mandatory mask-wearing.

Launches and immersive experiences at the heritage sites, as well as adventure experiences and events, will be revealed over the coming weeks and will be phased in over the winter months. In fact, a full suite of experiences is planned for the winter season. 

“We are developing engaging, authentic, light-touch tourism experiences that hero the essence of AlUla, our heritage sites, natural assets and of course the AlUla community,” Phillip Jones, Chief Destination Management and Marketing Officer at RCU, said.

Described as an open-air museum of unprecedented historical and cultural significance, AlUla is in north-west Saudi Arabia. Saudia flights are available to AlUla from Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. AlUla is a 10-hour drive from Riyadh, while it takes seven hours to get there by car from Jeddah and just over three hours from Medina and Tabuk Airport. It’s also only a 2.5 hour drive to the Red Sea, which visitors can add on to their trip.

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