ALULA: The region of AlUla is an exquisite sight, from the deep green of the oasis and the ochre of the sand, to the red of the sandstone canyons and the black tones of the volcanic rocks. This enchanting setting is home to one of the most fertile valleys in the Arabian Peninsula.
In AlUla, numerous societies and civilizations have followed one another: Neolithic, Nabataean, Roman, Umayyad, Abbasid and Ottoman, among others. Their remains have been exceptionally preserved.
The AlUla: Wonder of Arabia exhibition introduces visitors to this dual natural and human heritage.
It includes rare archaeological objects and artefacts, as well as digital, sound and sensory devices, all supported by exclusive videos by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, an environmentalist, activist, journalist and photographer.
The exhibition is a tribute to the most important archaeological work carried out over the past 20 years, led by its two curators: French archaeologist and epigraphist Laila Nehme, and Saudi archaeologist Abdulrahman Al-Suhaibani.
Their research has brought to light exceptional remains, some of which will be exhibited for the first time.
Arthus-Bertrand’s monumental images project visitors into the majesty of AlUla’s reliefs and colors.
There is a Nabataean funeral ceremony in a replica of one of Hegra’s famous tombs. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is comparable in scale and importance to Petra in Jordan.
Monumental statues and numerous archaeological objects punctuate the exhibition and illustrate the richness of AlUla’s past.
An inscription dated 280 AD, a real missing link between the Nabataean and Arabic alphabets, is on display for the first time, demonstrating how AlUla offers a unique testimony to the birth of the Arabic language.
The exhibition ends with a guided tour of the old town of AlUla, which was inhabited for 800 years by indigenous communities and by pilgrims journeying to Makkah.
AlUla remains a vibrant place. Visitors to the exhibition will learn about the daily life of people who have occupied the valley over the centuries and up to the present day, via activities, archaeological specimens, plants, traditional tools, photographs and contemporary testimonies.
The exhibition recreates an AlUla garden in which visitors can stroll around and soak up local essences — such as moringa, date and fig — through olfactory installations.
“We are delighted that the first international exhibition dedicated to the inhabitants, heritage and history of AlUla is being launched at the Arab World Institute,” said Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al-Saud, governor of the Royal Commission for AlUla.
“A true crossroads between three continents and the former gateway from Arabia to the Mediterranean, AlUla is home to some of Saudi Arabia’s most important cultural and historical sites,” he added.
“This exhibition expands the global understanding of Nabataean, Dadanite and ancient Islamic civilizations, and supports our mission to conserve the important heritage of AlUla for future generations.”
Jack Lang, president of the Arab World Institute, said it is “delighted to introduce civilizations that have flourished in the amazing lunar landscape of AlUla — a landscape composed of mountains, hills and rivers, adorned with colors that change from morning to evening, where calm, silence, tranquility and mystery are intertwined.”
He added: “The exhibition we are preparing must be grandiose, in line with AlUla’s greatness. It will give you the opportunity to dream, and will invite you to participate in a journey between heaven and earth in an exceptional place.”