Holidays to AlUla

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One of the most lustrous jewels in Saudi Arabia’s cultural crown, AlUla sits firmly amongst the Middle East’s most extraordinary historical sites. It is a place of more than 200,000 years of history in a seemingly hostile environment where, against the odds, ancient civilisations rose and fell, their former glories now a mere whisper riding the soft desert winds.

The most splendid of these sites is Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hegra was the second city of the Nabataeans and had until recently lingered in the shadow of their more famous capital city of Petra, found in the Jordanian desert. Before the Nabataeans, Hegra is believed to have been settled by the Thamud people, who left rock writings etched into the mountains. Hegra’s origins stretch as far back as the 1st century BC, and the site comprises more than 110 monolithic tombs carved into the red sandstone cliffs of the desert. Though Hegra’s historic extent is still shrouded in mystery and myth, it is widely regarded to have been at the crossroads of the ancient trade routes and thus accommodated ancient civilisations, merchants and pilgrims on their way to Mecca.

In addition to Hegra, the region’s other notable heritage site is AlUla’s Old Town, a warren of lanes lined with mudbrick buildings that lies nestled within a desert oasis. Scattered with more than 900 abandoned houses in varying degrees of condition, the best way to take in the splendour of AlUla is from the vantage point of the 10th-century fort built to defend the settlement, which was over the course of its history inhabited by the Dadan, Lihyanite and Nabataean kingdoms.

A modern addition to AlUla is the Maraya building with its striking all-mirror exterior. Reflecting the ancient, rose-tinted desert outcrops, Maraya is a masterpiece of modern architecture and a perfect physical metaphor for Saudi Arabia's mix of old and new. Meaning “mirror” in Arabic, Maraya is more than a mere architectural gimmick, housing a concert and events venue as well as a restaurant helmed by a Michelin-starred chef.

A place of extraordinary history, AlUla is an essential destination for anyone considering a luxury Saudi Arabia holiday.

Billy

Geshan

Herbert

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