Riyadh Season introduces year-round safaris

The initiative, whose aim is to attract animal enthusiasts from around the world, took seven months to come to fruition. The safaris will take place all year round rather than being limited to Riyadh Season. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 23 November 2019

Riyadh Season introduces year-round safaris

  • Animals on display have been imported from abroad, and their natural habitats have been replicated in the desert

RIYADH: The annual Riyadh Season has, for the first time this year, introduced a desert safari experience as part of its program.

The initiative, whose aim is to attract animal enthusiasts from around the world, took seven months to come to fruition. The safaris will take place all year round rather than being limited to Riyadh Season.

“We had an idea to have a safari in Riyadh. From then, we went on different safaris around the world,” project manager Abdulraouf Ghurab told Arab News. “What we have now is the full experience.”

Arab News took part in one of the safaris, joining others on a specially designed truck that is made to withstand any condition. “Starting from the vehicles, we’re applying a very high level of security,” said Ghurab.

The animals on display have been imported from abroad, and their natural habitats have been replicated in the desert.

Experience

The ride began with a view of giraffes, Arabian sand gazelles and wildebeests. Visitors could get out of the vehicles and have a closer look at Asian elephants that were eating food that their caretakers were throwing at them.

Until that point, people were enjoying the tamer side of nature. The next phase of the trip was entering the zone of the big cats.

That phase started with the majestic rulers of the jungle: Lions. Exclamations and gasps could be heard as many of the people riding the trucks were seeing them for the first time.

We had an idea to have a safari in Riyadh. From then, we went on different safaris around the world. What we have now is the full experience.

Abdulraouf Ghurab, Project manager

The felines were separated by wired fences in order for them not to harm each other, and they were given plenty of space so they could feel at home. The next zone belonged to tigers, which strolled and drank out of an artificial pool of water.

Next was perhaps the most exciting breed: The golden tigers, which look like mythical creatures and are an extremely rare breed of tiger. Another extremely rare breed were the “ligers,” a cross between lions and tigers.

Ghurab said: “For the big cats we’ve applied a very high level of security, starting with the electric fence. There are snipers in the watchtowers and the double gates.”

A whole other part of the experience was a closed garden that contained a colorful variety of friendly birds that were happily perching on visitors’ arms.

“I’d rather bring my children here than take them to malls,” Maha Nizami, a mother of two, told Arab News. “They’ll get what I never had for myself, and I grew up fearing animals. I hope that’s not the case with my kids.”


Swarm of drones to light up AlUla’s skies as part of aerial art display

Updated 28 February 2020

Swarm of drones to light up AlUla’s skies as part of aerial art display

  • International artwork explores links between nature, technology and humanity at Saudi festival

ALULA: A swarm of drones will light up the skies over AlUla during a spectacular international artistic display as part of the Winter at Tantora festival.

The aerial presentation by Franchise Freedom, a performance arts initiative created by Studio Drift, explores the relationship between humanity, nature and technology.

Formed from an autonomously flying swarm of hundreds of drones, based on research into the flight behavior of starlings, the work aims to question the concept of freedom and social construct.

Underlining the harmony between humans and their surroundings, the artistic display, which runs until Feb. 28, uses the sky as its canvas to poetically illustrate how an individual can remain free, while operating within the safety of a community.

Through a variety of international events, the Winter at Tantora festival, organized by the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), seeks to highlight culture and heritage.

Noura Al-Dabal, the RCU’s culture and arts manager, said: “Winter at Tantora strives to keep pace with the evolution of humanity and the mix between the arts and technical development that the world has seen today, while preserving the heritage of AlUla.

“Franchise Freedom is a living embodiment of this goal and we are proud to host this distinguished international artwork in AlUla.”

Over the course of 12 weeks, the festival will present a variety of activities merging Eastern and Western cultures, embodying AlUla’s heritage as a meeting point for different civilizations from around the world throughout history.

The festival takes place every weekend until March 7.