Umm Kulthum returns virtually for Tantora show in Al-Ula

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AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib
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Umm Kulthum’s fans, who flocked to the Winter in Tantora festival in Al-Ula on Friday, visited nearby archaeological sites as part of their trip. (AN photos by Essam Al-Ghalib)
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Photo: Supplied
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Updated 27 January 2019

Umm Kulthum returns virtually for Tantora show in Al-Ula

  • Appearing as a hologram, late Egyptian singer enthralled music buffs 44 years after her death

AL-ULA: Though it has been 44 years since Umm Kulthum, the iconic Egyptian singer and actress, passed away at her home in Cairo, she was brought back to life on Friday in stunning fashion, performing in virtual reality to a full house at the Winter in Tantora festival in Al-Ula.
Appearing as a hologram, accompanied by an orchestra and bedecked in flowing, full-length gowns as she had when debuting in the 1920s, Kulthum gave fans the first chance to see her in concert since her death in 1975.
“I was born in the 1970s after Umm Kulthum died,” said Egyptian Nabila Yaseen, who had traveled from Jeddah to attend.
“I grew up listening to her on the radio, and I used to watch her in black and white on TV with my parents.
“To listen to her as if she were really in front of us is something I wish my mother could have seen. It brought back many memories from my childhood, and would have probably brought back many fond memories for my parents from their younger days, too.”
Dana Daham, a Saudi banker, saw Umm Kulthum’s concert with a group of friends. “We heard about what was going on in Tantora and decided to try it out. We went on the website, found tickets, took the train from Jeddah to Madinah and then we drove to Al-Ula. It’s been great, I highly recommend trying it!”
As part of their trip to Tantora, Daham and her friends also visited a nearby archaeological site, featuring Nabataean ruins dating back to the 1st century AD.
“This is one of the few classical period sites with a lot of Nabataean, Roman and Greek influences,” said Zbigniew Fiema, a senior archaeologist with the Saudi-French Archaeological Mission.
“It is of particular importance, because you can really see the influences, and the interactions between the East and West.”
The Nabataeans were an Arab people living in antiquity around Petra, but whose settlements extended down to Hejaz.
“This site existed here between the 1st century BC and the 4th century AD,” Fiema added. “It is relatively unknown to the public, but the archaeological importance of it is tremendous.”
Winter in Tantora will continue until Feb. 2, with performances by Andrea Bocelli next weekend, and new-age musician Yanni the weekend after. Tickets offering various packages can be purchased at


Winter at Tantora Festival

It's a music festival being held at Saudi Arabia's archaeological site Al-Ula, the capital of the ancient Arabian kingdom of Lihyan. Hosted by the residents of Al-Ula in Madinah province, the festival runs from December 20, 2018 until February 9, 2019, with performances by Andrea Bocelli next weekend, and new-age musician Yanni the weekend after.

Saudi Arabia confirms no change in Israel travel rules

Updated 27 January 2020

Saudi Arabia confirms no change in Israel travel rules

  • Foreign minister says Israeli passport holders are still unable to visit the the Kingdom

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has confirmed that Israeli citizens are still unable to visit the Kingdom.

Foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the policy has not changed despite Israel saying on Sunday that its passport holders could now travel to the country for religious and business visits.

“Our policy is fixed,” Prince Faisal told CNN. “We do not have relations with the state of Israel and Israeli passport holders cannot visit the Kingdom at the current time.”

His comments come as Donald Trump prepares to unveil his Middle East peace plan on Tuesday. An agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would be key to improving relations with Arab countries, most of which have no diplomatic ties with Israel.

“When a peace agreement is reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis, I believe the issue of Israel’s involvement in the region will be on the table,” Prince Faisal added.

Israel’s interior minister said on Sunday that Israelis - if invited and permitted by Saudi authorities - would be allowed to travel there for religious reasons on pilgrimage or for up to nine days for business reasons such as investment or meetings.

Israelis, mostly Muslims going on pilgrimage, do visit the Kingdom, but usually with special permission or using foreign passports.

Saudi Arabia, along with most Arab countries have no official diplomatic relations with Israel, and citizens of those countries are not able to travel to Israel nor Israelis to those countries.

However, relations between Israel and Gulf states have improved in recent years, particularly over a shared stand against Iran and its aggressive policies in the region.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that he welcomed Israel’s warming ties to Arab countries in the region.

In 2018, Netanyahu visited Oman and met the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

*With Reuters