Product & Operations Director Marc was amongst the first to travel to the enigmatic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia last year when they revealed they would finally be issuing tourist visas. Here he tells us five things we never knew about the north-western region of AlUla.
1) Hegra in AlUla was built by the Nabateans; the same people who built Petra and was an important city as its fertile oasis attracted pilgrims on the incense route running from Oman and Yemen through to Damascus.
2) It is one of five UNESCO sites in Saudi Arabia (four of which are visited on our group tour, Inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). It was also the first UNESCO site in the country.
3) Amongst those who performed at the AlUla 2020 Winter Festival were Lionel Richie, Kool and the Gang, Sister Sledge, Craig David, and Jamiroquai. This was only the second festival performed here, the first being in 2018.
4) It was a stop of the Hejaz Railway which was an Ottoman effort to build a railway that ran from Istanbul to Mecca. When WWI started, building efforts stopped and it only got as far as Medina. Lawrence of Arabia, who rose up in revolt against Turkish domination with the Arabs, targeted the railway and eventually blew it up.
5) As part of the Vision 2030 programme, Saudi Arabia plans to inject US$400 billion into developing tourism in Saudi Arabia, learning from the mistakes made in Dubai and Egypt by avoiding mass-tourism, and looking to be a model for sustainability.