5 Sites every Muslim must visit in Spain

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Having been a Muslim settlement for a big part of recent human history, Spain is home to a number of astonishing monuments that trackback to the golden age of Al-Andalus (Andalucía). 


To help the Muslim visitors locate some of the significant historical attractions, we have prepared a list of the most sought-after Muslim sights in Spain that are sure to bewilder Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

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1. Alhambra Palace

One of the key historical sites of Andalucía; rebuilt as a military fortress by the Muslims in the 800s due to its strategic location overlooking the city, Alhambra is was once the royal residence of the first king of Cordoba during the reign of the Nasrid Dynasty.

The once royal palace contains many interesting elements within it, including Alcazaba and the palaces, Patio of the Lions, the Justice Gate, the building of the Baths, the Comares Room, and the Hall of the Boat.

Make sure you’re prepared for a long tour when you visit because you will be admiring the beauty around you at every step!

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2. The Great Mosque of Cordoba

Called the Great Mosque for an apparent reason, this impressive monument was created during the reign of the Umayyad Caliphate specifically to rival the impressive architecture in Constantinople. And it was one of the biggest mosques around the world, after the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and the Holy Mosque in Mecca.

This magnificent mosque is a great example of Muslims’ extraordinary architectural prowess, and their ability to fuse familiar elements with innovative design.

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3. Royal Alcázar of Seville

Historically known as al-Qasr al -Muriq, the Alcázar of Seville is a royal palace considered now one of Spain’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

This particular site has been chosen throughout the ages of different civilizations, cultures, and dynasties to be the center of power. This resting place of kings hides behind its fortified walls a collection of fortresses, gardens, and palaces.

As different rulers settled in the palace, the site kept expanding gradually throughout the years and is now a standing monument of Spanish history.

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4. Medina Azahara

The once-flourishing palace-city built by Caliph Abd ar-Rahman III in the 10th century is located Eight Kilometers west of Cordoba. The palace that was originally surrounded by gardens and open fields is now open to public visits and contains a modern museum below the site.

The museum takes visitors through the history of the site, with records of its construction, inhabitants, and eventual downfall, all illustrated with beautiful displays.

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5. Aljafería Palace

The original site in Zaragoza had a defensive tower called Torre del Trovador, which in the 11th century saw the addition of a residential palace built by Al-Muqtadir for the Hudid rulers of Saraqusta.

The palace holds vital significance since it is the only remaining example of Hispanic Islamic architecture from the Taifa period, where all the splendor and grandeur of the Taifa kingdom can be looked upon.

Visitors to the palace will find 3 main elements of attraction: the Golden Hall, the private mosque, and the patio of Santa Label.

 

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Direct Flight From Paris to the Historic Oasis of AlUla, Saudi Arabia

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Direct flight from Paris to the historic oasis of AlUla (Saudi Arabia) French visitors among the first to experience Saudi’s nature and culture heritage.


The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), SAUDIA Airlines, and the French Agency for the development of AlUla (AFALULA) announce the opening of a direct flight from Paris to AlUla (Saudi Arabia).

This new air route provides a unique opportunity for French travelers and travelers from neighboring countries to be among the first explorers to visit this extraordinary region. Arguably the biggest archaeological program in the world at the moment, the globally significant heritage destination also offers stunning nature and cultural experiences in exceptional landscapes. Among them, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hegra, the second city of the great Nabataean Kingdom of Petra in Jordan, several archaeological sites dating back to the 1st millennium BC and a 25 km long lush oasis stretching in the middle of desert mountains and rock formations.rainbow-rock-1

The direct flight will depart from CDG airport every Sunday from January 30th to March 27th. After a comfortable 5 hours flight in a Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” operated by SAUDIA, and already given a flavor of Arab hospitality, the guests will land at AlUla airport with only a 30-minute drive to their hotel. AlUla is a perfect place for a 3 or 4 sunny-day stay enjoying all the natural and cultural experiences it has to offer and a smooth entry point to other destinations in Saudi Arabia.

This new flight will be inaugurated this Thursday, January 27th.

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Phillip Jones, Chief Destination Management and Marketing Officer saidThis is indeed a historic moment for AlUla and an important step forward in our ambitions to share our piece of history and our stunning destination with the world. We know that the French are intrepid travelers, always keen to be the first to experience the new. We are excited to work with Saudia to welcome the first European direct flight to AlUla and hope that many Europeans will take the opportunity to visit our heritage sites and perhaps take in some of our winter events as the flights will run till March 27.”

The winter events season is in full swing in AlUla with four major festivals on offer until the end of March 2022 under the events banner of AlUla Moments. Winter at Tantora, AlUla Arts, AlUla Skies, and Alula Wellness. Flagship events include musical concerts at Maraya with international and regional performers on the bill; equestrian events include The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup 2022, January 29, and the Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo on February 11 – 12. In arts, the second edition of Desert X AlUla, the site-responsive outdoor art exhibition starts on February 11. In skies, Hot Air Balloons will offer a serene bird’s eye view of AlUla, and Light Sky Constellations, February 27 – celebrates the bright stars in the dark sky. AlUla Wellness offers many unique sensory experiences out in nature, including Five Senses Sanctuary starting March 13. There are also many immersive and exciting new dining experiences.

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Hazem Sonbol, Passenger Sales Vice President of SAUDIA Airlines stated: “As the Kingdom’s flag carrier, we are delighted to welcome this inaugural direct flight from the heart of Europe into the ancient city of AlUla. This is our first international direct flight to AlUla and we believe one of many as more of our guests around the world are showing an eagerness to explore our country’s history and culture.

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Gérard Mestrallet, Executive President of AFALULA, declared: ” Since the intergovernmental agreement signed by Saudi Arabia and France in April 2018 on AlUla sustainable development, the collaboration between the Saudi and French economic and cultural ecosystems, led by the Royal Commission for AlUla and AFALULA, has proven to be increasingly intense and fruitful. The numerous partnerships sealed between the RCU and French companies as well as the achievements on the ground reveal the success of this cooperation. Following the access, since September 2019, to tourist visas for Saudi Arabia, the opening of a direct air route from Paris will bolster the attractiveness of this unique cultural destination. “

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Faia Younan to perform live in AlUla

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The singer will take to the Maraya stage in a live event on the 19th of November.


As part of the AlUla Moments events calendar, Maraya is hosting a performance by singer Faia Younan on 19 November.

Gifted with a sentimental voice, the young singer thrills millions of Arabs across the world with her modern music, poem songs, and classical-oriental pieces; which altogether has helped Faia shape a unique musical identity among her counterparts.

Over the past six years, Faia released two albums named “A Sea Between Us” and “Tales of The Heart”. The singer was first known for her music hit ‘To Our Countries’ which went viral on YouTube in 2014 and inspired the 21-year-old-at-that-time to pursue a professional career in music.

Faia is known for being a strong performer on stage and had previously carried out successful concerts at the Middle East’s most renowned theaters including The Damascus Opera House, The Cairo Opera House, and the famous Roman amphitheaters of Tunisia and Jordan.

Besides her presence in regional festivals and concerts, Faia Younan participates in international festivals in Sweden, the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Canada.

On her first trip to AlUla, Faia is excited to be performing at Maraya.

Faia commented, ‘I am excited to perform in such an amazing venue and in such a beautiful landscape as the Ashar Valley. I believe the music that we will be performing will be enhanced by the surrounds of the desert and location. I have heard so much about AlUla, I very much look forward to visiting.’

The live music concert will be orchestrated by songwriter and composer, Rayan Al Habre.

Those wanting to book tickets should sign up to be the first to hear when they are on sale at experiencealula.com

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Join Catwalk in AlUla in support of the Arabian Leopard

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Community members and visitors are invited to join Catwalk on 6th November.  A fun, free, open-to-all, 7km or 700m walk or run, Catwalk is Catmosphere Foundation’s inaugural campaign.


  • AlUla’s 7km Catwalk will take place in the Sharaan Nature Reserve while the 700m Catwalk Cubs will take place in AlUla Oasis
  • Catmosphere Foundation was created by the Saudi Ambassador to the United States of America HRH Princess Reema Bandar Al Saud to raise awareness for critically endangered Big Cats, including the Arabian Leopard

oasis-12Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 04 November 2021: Visitors, residents, and wildlife lovers are invited to join Catwalk, a 7km walk, in AlUla’s protected Sharaan Nature Reserve to show their support for the endangered Arabian Leopard.  Residents and visitors can join staff from the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) to walk through the stunning Sharaan Nature Reserve, accompanied by rangers.

Parents with young children or families with elderly relatives can take part in Catwalk Cubs, a shorter 700m walk combined with a fun activity at the AlUla Oasis, starting at the Orange Road.

sharaan-1A fun, free, open-to-all, 7km or 700m walk or run, Catwalk’s aim is to activate fitness and learning, and in doing so create a community that is not only informed but also invested, and whose engagement in the support of Big Cat conservation becomes ongoing.  Catwalks will take place globally on 6th November 2021.arabian-leopard-baby-cub-5-mos-1

Catmosphere’s Founder and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States Reema Bandar Al Saud says: “What’s unique about Catwalk is that we are crafting creative partnerships to align unlikely mandates, and one example of that is how Catwalk is aligning health and well-being to Big Cat conservation.”

oasis-5Catwalk supports AlUla’s goal to become a global benchmark destination for environmentally friendly and sustainable tourism. Efforts to protect the Arabian Leopard are central to the success of the RCU’s AlUla project and its far-reaching environmental and sustainability goals.

Dr. Ahmed Almalki, Nature Reserve Director, said: “AlUla Catwalk, taking place at the Sharaan Nature Reserve and AlUla Oasis, is a wonderful opportunity for members of the AlUla community and visitors to explore the stunning natural environment and to demonstrate their support for ongoing work to protect the Arabian Leopard, as well as other endangered Big Cats worldwide.

Vue sur la palmeraire devant le site de Dadan.

Vue sur la palmeraire devant le site de Dadan.

The recent birth of an Arabian Leopard cub at a specialist breeding center in Taif represents a bright future for the project’s ambitions to conserve the species and successfully reintroduce it to its natural habitat in the mountains of AlUla.

One of the rarest animals on the planet, the Arabian Leopard is officially classified as ‘critically endangered’ – just one step above extinct – with fewer than 200 thought to be living in the wild.arabian-leopard-baby-cub-at-5-mos-3-photo-credits-to-aline-coquelle

RCU has already committed USD 25 million to the Arabian Leopard Fund, an independent organization launched by the Commission to work across the leopard’s home range to save the species.

“The Arabian Leopard is a symbol of our long-term goals to revitalize AlUla through conservation projects that emphasize a deep connection, balance, and harmony with the natural world. We look forward to welcoming local families, residents of all ages, and visitors to explore the beauty of the Sharaan Nature Reserve and AlUla Oasis, to learn more about these unique places and raise awareness about the need to conserve and protect the natural world around us now and for future generations to come,” said Dr. Almalki.

sharaan-2Anyone interested in participating in Catwalk at the Sharaan Nature Reserve and AlUla Oasis can sign up at: www.experiencealula.com/en/alula-moments/alula-catwalk

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Royal Commission for AlUla and Saudi Arabia Airlines (SAUDIA) Seal Partnership for Domestic Campaign

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SAUDIA Connects Guests to AlUla with Eight-Times-Weekly Flights from Three Gateways: Jeddah, Dammam, and Riyadh.


Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – 27 January 2021

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) and the national flag carrier of Saudi Arabia, SAUDIA, have signed a SAR 4million memorandum of understanding (MOU) which includes joint marketing and promotional activity to ensure AlUla is top of mind as a year-round destination for Saudi residents in 2021.

The MOU was officiated by Melanie De Souza, Executive Director Destination Marketing, RCU, and Hazim Sonbol, VP sales, SAUDIA at SAUDIA’s Jeddah headquarters.

The partnership activity commenced on January 26th, 2021, and coincides with AlUla’s first-ever destination brand campaign, The World’s Masterpiece, which also launched on January 10th and runs through to April targeted at KSA and GCC markets.

SAUDIA is the only air carrier providing scheduled services to Al Ula. Currently, the airline offers eight-times-weekly flights from Jeddah, Dammam, and Riyadh (nonstop and direct from each destination):

  • Riyadh (4-times-weekly) on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays
  • Dammam (2-times-weekly) on Thursdays and Saturdays
  • Jeddah (2-times-weekly) on Thursdays and Saturdays
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Ms. Melanie de Souza (RCU) and Mr. Hazem Sonbol (SAUDIA) exchanging gifts during the signing ceremony on the 26th of January 2021.

The flights are already available for purchase either stand-alone or all-inclusive packages with air tickets, accommodation, transportation, and tours available for booking at www.saudiaholidays.com

The activity includes co-branded outdoor and digital marketing in Jeddah, Riyadh, and Dammam, in-flight entertainment, promotions through SAUDIA’s Alfursan loyalty program, airport and ticket office branding, promotion of AlUla packages through Saudia Holidays.

Melanie de Souza, Executive Director Marketing, RCU said she is delighted to be working with the national carrier on AlUla’s first domestic campaign and expects this is the first of many great campaigns together, especially following the recent GACA announcement that international flights to and from the Kingdom will resume in March.

‘SAUDIA is a key partner for AlUla as we open the destination for first domestic and then international tourism when flights resume. The World’s Masterpiece is a brand campaign targeting our vital Saudi market and we’ve had very positive feedback so far,’ said de Souza.

While phase one of the campaign is about winning the hearts and minds of Saudi audiences, de Souza says the next phase will be more tactical.

‘We need to establish AlUla as a destination that is open all year round with our heritage sites and select adventure and nature activity being available through summer and spring. With SAUDIA’s partnership and support we will communicate this through a multi-channel program,’ said de Souza.

SAUDIA Vice President Passenger Sales, Mr. Hazim Sonbol said ‘it’s a great moment marking the beginning of a partnership with The Royal Commission for AlUla to position AlUla as a historical and cultural destination within the kingdom which is a milestone towards achieving 2030 vision.’

AlUla packages will be available for booking with Saudia Holidays from January 24th and include a choice of one, two, or three nights. For all other information and bookings, including access to heritage sites and adventure experiences, please go to experiencealula.com

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AlUla – The World’s Masterpiece

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The first-ever destination brand campaign for AlUla, the heritage and culture centerpiece of Saudi Arabia, was unveiled today.


The campaign, developed by the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) with creative partners Leo Burnett, includes a 90” film directed by renowned cinematographer Bruno Aveillan and a suite of digital assets under the concept of The World’s Masterpiece.

In what is hoped will be a year of travel recovery, AlUla’s new brand campaign is targeting domestic travelers and aimed at deepening the Kingdom’s pride and affection for AlUla as well as ultimately increasing intention to visit.

The World’s Masterpiece is a play on both the skillful artistry of ancient civilizations who carved elaborate artworks into the rocky outcrops, as well as the pure and unspoiled beauty of the geological rock formations and landscapes sculpted by nature,’ said Phillip Jones, Chief Destination Management and Marketing Officer, RCU.

AlUla is the first of the significant Saudi Vision 2030 initiatives to welcome visitors, having re-opened key heritage sites to visitors in October 2020 as a new year-round offer.

‘We know Saudis love to travel and we hope this campaign will inspire many of them to appreciate a must-see destination, a world masterpiece, closer to home.’

‘Our heritage sites are now available all year-round and with new hotels, restaurants, and adventure experiences including trails, bikes, and buggies coming throughout 2021 we encourage visitors to book ahead, think about mid-week, and plan to stay a few days,’ said Jones.

The hero film features a young Saudi woman reflecting on her time in AlUla and visiting key sites including UNESCO World Heritage Site Hegra, Dadan, Jabal Ikmah, AlUla Old Town, and Jabal AlFil (Elephant Rock). She appears marveling at the mirrored architectural wonder, Maraya, and strolling through the lush winter oasis.

The campaign was conceived by RCU’s GCC region creative agency, Leo Burnett, and directed by Bruno Aveillan. Born in Toulouse, Aveillan is one of the most distinguished and sought-after commercials directors in the world today. He was immediately creatively and emotionally inspired by AlUla and sought to convey that feeling through the film.

Aveillan said, ‘It was such an honor and privilege to work on this project. A historic and important destination as this needed the appropriate gravitas. We wanted to convey feelings of nostalgia and the emotion of seeing the destination for the first time. AlUla is a unique place in the world, we needed to make the first-ever destination film with a style that no other place could imitate.’ 

It is hoped that the campaign will help to achieve RCU’s visitor projections of 90k for 2021 and 130k for 2022. And while the campaign is aimed at the domestic market, and specifically three core audience segments which represent 64% of the regional affluent traveler market, Melanie de Souza, Executive Director Marketing, RCU expects it to have some organic reach digitally in international markets.

‘We are already receiving a lot of interest from international travelers excited to explore a new destination with such history including ancient civilizations from the Dadanites to the Nabataeans and the Romans.’

‘The travel landscape has been irreversibly altered, but as travel slowly resumes, research tells us people will be looking for meaningful travel, vast open spaces, and close to nature experiences. AlUla is well-positioned in the domestic market for all of those reasons and internationally as a new and significant boutique heritage and culture destination,’ said de Souza.

The campaign will be launched in broadcast, outdoor, and digital from January 9th, 2021.

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Alula UNVIELS New Experiences and Opens Bookings

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AlUla, the historical crossroad of ancient civilizations, 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.


  • AlUla heritage sites open for bookings
  • New experiences announced for winter months
  • AlUla Old Town opening in December
  • Adventure Canyon experiences unveiled

AlUla, the historical crossroad of ancient civilizations, 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.touring-hegra_800x533-copy

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.

By the end of December, 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:

  • visitors can try their hand at making a necklace made of date stones, a replica of a necklace that archaeologists discovered in Hegra in 2015;
  • a fun and interactive spotlight the Nabataean society and ways of life with the live theatre performance, the Tomb of Malkiyun the Diviner (Qasr AlSania);
  • a sensory glimpse into Bedouin life at The Alfegeer Mudhouses with handicraft workshops, live performances, and cooking;
  • visitors will be able to get their name beautifully reproduced in the Nabataean script to take home as a framed memento.

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 are currently undergoing extensive excavations at Dadan to explore this relatively unknown period in AlUa’s 7000 years of human settlement. From December, a family-friendly 40-minute ‘Archaeology for Everyone’ workshop will have kids digging for artifacts to get in on the action. Visitors will also 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.

In what will be a world-first, from late December, AlUla Old Town will be open to the public. Once the restoration and site security work has been completed, the visitor experience will include Rawi tours of Tantora Plaza and sundial and views from AlUla castle; the opportunity to experience a busy Souq as it was in its heyday 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 appreciate the landscapes, rock art, dunes, and peaks of the desert while zipping around in these fun three-person dune buggy vehicles or 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 oasis is also slated for later in the year.

Available from December, a family-fun bump and pump bike track is being constructed as well as a zipline by Warrior 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 palm trees to the 29 types of citrus fruit, farms play an important role in AlUla’s economy and daily life.

AlUla will also welcome some new permanent experiences in the arts and cultural space. The AlUla Girls’ School near Old Town is being transformed into an arts hub and will offer a wide range of workshops and classes from fine art to jewelry making and the revival of ancient handicrafts such as ceramics, weaving, and glasswork.

Restaurants have also been given careful consideration and further announcements are to be made in the coming weeks about some exciting new dining options. In the meantime, key local cafes Barzan and AlMakher 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.

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The Destination of Alula and Assouline Publishing Launch Alula Featuring Photography by Robert Polidori and Paintings by Ignasi Monreal

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The new book, on sale September 8, immerses readers in the culture and mystique of AlUla through stunning landscapes, ancient sites, and interpretive illustrations.


Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 7th of September 2020: The destination of AlUla, in collaboration with publisher Assouline, announces the September 2020 release of a luxury immersive book of photography and illustrations titled, AlUla. With stunning images taken by internationally renowned photographer Robert Polidori, and interpretive illustrations by multidisciplinary artist Ignasi Monreal, AlUla virtually transports readers to the destination, giving them a glimpse into the city’s rich history and a unique look into AlUla’s local culture.

Available in Assouline’s exclusive Ultimate and XXL formats, this oversize luxury volume is a celebration of human milestones and natural wonders, sharing the majesty of AlUla. The Ultimate format is available in blue and beige covers, and the XXL format is available in blue and black boxes.

Nestled deep within the vast desert of northwest Arabia, AlUla is known as a cultural oasis and living museum with more than 200,000 years of human history: from Paleolithic hunter-gatherers; civilizations such as the Nabataeans, Dadanites, and Romans; Muslim pilgrims on their way to Mecca and Medina, and trade caravans traveling the Incense Route; to present-day communities who mingle and exchange cultural ideas with global travelers.

AlUla is home to relics both old and new including Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra, with remains dating back to the Nabataean kingdom, as well as modern landmarks including Maraya, an award-winning, multi-purpose concert and entertainment venue that is also the Guinness Book of Records largest mirrored venue in the world.

Each page of this luxurious and limited edition exclusive book delves into the destination’s ancient mystique, where innovative and artistic people lived and journeyed in its exceptional landscapes and contoured mountains, leaving traces of their language, culture and way of life. Images and illustrations captured in the book include monumental tombs carved into the outcrops of Hegra, nature-carved rock sculptures including Jabal AlFil (also known as Elephant Rock) and petroglyphs (or rock art) showcasing examples of animals that inhabited AlUla thousands of years ago.

AlUla photographer Robert Polidori began his career in the mid-1980s when he photographed the Restoration of Versailles, and he has since documented sites across the globe. Preferring the beauty and stillness of working with a large-format camera and slow shutter speeds, Polidori thinks of rooms as vessels for memory. He has twice won the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award for Magazine Photography, he has published over a dozen photo books, he has had major solo exhibitions in important galleries, and his work is held in the collections of many prominent museums around the world.

On his experience photographing AlUla Polidori says, “The natural situation of AlUla is just amazing and unparalleled, and I was taken by that. I look to try to render what I call an emblematic image, showing its whole and usually showing its entirety through its details and vice versa. I tried to give a timeless image.”

Polidori also shares more of his experience in AlUla in a video, which provides a look inside the book and select Polidori photos.

AlUla illustrator Ignasi Monreal is a multidisciplinary artist born in Barcelona and currently based in Rome. He works in various media including painting, design, creative direction, and film. He created Gucci’s Spring/ Summer 2018 campaign, the first of its kind to be fully digitally painted, for which he was short-listed for a Beazley Designs of the Year award. Since then he worked with brands such as Bulgari, Four Seasons, and AirBnb amongst others. An animated video brings Monreal’s illustrations of AlUla to life.

The Ultimate format is part of Assouline’s Ultimate Collection: it’s an homage to the art of luxury bookmaking. Hand-bound using traditional techniques, with color plates hand-tipped on art-quality paper, each page of this limited-edition series bears the unique imprint of the artisan. Nestled in linen clamshell presentation cases, these books attract collectors, lovers of the printed page, and those who devour the culture of our time. Signaling a new level of sophistication for true connoisseurs, these unique books are works of art in their own right.

For more information and to purchase, please visit Assouline.com.

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AlUla re-opening October 2020

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As the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) continues to develop AlUla into a pre-eminent global tourism destination, it is the Saudi residents who will be the first visitors to experience the re-opening of one of the undiscovered wonders of the world.


In October 2020, AlUa, an open-air museum in North West of Saudi Arabia, which includes the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, will officially re-open and welcome visitors.

While some attendees of AlUa’s Winter at Tantora annual arts festival have been granted access to the archaeological sites in the event’s first two years, now for the first time, AlUla’s landmarks of unprecedented historical and cultural significance and its 250,000 years of human legacy are going to be accessible for all visitors all year round. alula-28-copy

With a focus firmly on conservation and responsible tourism, since 2017 RCU has been transforming AlUla 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 AlUla will get a head start on experiencing the raw, natural beauty and monumentality of landscapes in their backyard,” said Mr Jones.

Overnight visitors can choose from five accommodation providers each with its own take on desert luxury. AlUla’s accommodation stock is set to progressively increase to more than 9400 rooms by 2035. hegra-66-copy

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; and Old Town, the ancient walled city of AlUla which has been at the crossroad of civilizations from the twelfth century CE.

AlUla’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 and literature for millennia.” alula-1-copy

Adventure tourists will also be catered for, whether it’s tearing around the sandscapes in a desert buggy, or taking to the skies in a vintage light air-craft to see volcanic craters and key hole 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 Park, an experience developed for the Winter at Tantora festival will also make a come-back as a more permanent attraction offering a casual open-air atmosphere for food trucks and art installations. alula-29-copy

After a day of sightseeing, visitors can stroll through the cool and sheltered oasis – a green canopy of palm grove where the air is perfumed with the scent of dates, orange, and mint grown nearby.

Dining options include local restaurants, many featuring produce sourced from nearby farms.

For the business tourism market, Maraya, a wonder of the architectural world, is a multi-use 500 seat events venue that is covered in 10,000 square meters of mirrors, reflecting the surrounding landscape. Maraya is scheduled to re-open in December 2020.

“A visit to AlUla is a transformative experience to all who have visited. Its vast open spaces, its secrets of civilizations gone by and the pure wonder of its landmarks – both old and new,” said Mr. Jones.

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