Balloon ‘glow show’ puts AlUla’s name up in lights — and sets new world record

The Winter at Tantora festival reaches new heights after it entered the Guinness World Record for longest hot air balloon glow show at AlUla’s spectacular desert landscape. (Photo/Supplied)
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Updated 04 February 2020

Balloon ‘glow show’ puts AlUla’s name up in lights — and sets new world record

  • 100 balloons soared aloft across a 3 km stretch of AlUla’s spectacular desert landscape

ALULA: Balloonists from 19 countries staged a record-breaking hot air balloon “glow show” above the AlUla desert in an extraordinary night-time display.

The Guinness World Record for longest hot air balloon glow show was confirmed by an official adjudicator after 100 balloons soared aloft across a 3 km stretch of AlUla’s spectacular desert landscape.

The record-breaking flight, a highlight of the Winter at Tantora festival, was described as “a magical occasion” by Amr Al-Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla and president of the Saudi Arabian Balloon Federation.

Glow shows — in which balloonists create choreographed dancing lights set to music by using their burners to illuminate their hot air balloons — are a regular attraction at AlUla’s Winter at Tantora arts, music and culture festival, but this was the most ambitious ever staged.

“This was a tremendously complex task in planning and coordination,” Al-Madani said. “It was a night to remember and demonstrates once again the extraordinary opportunities that AlUla has to offer as a destination.”

It was a night to remember and demonstrates once again the extraordinary opportunities that AlUla has to offer as a destination.

Amr Al-Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla and president of the Saudi Arabian Balloon Federation.

The international balloonists were participating in Winter at Tantora’s Balloon Festival, and offered festival visitors a chance to glide over AlUla’s spectacular landscape and some of its 7,000 years of archaeological remains, including the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hegra, a 2,000-year-old Nabataean site with well-preserved tombs carved into sandstone cliffs.

Safety was paramount for the record-breaking attempt, with organizers and support teams monitoring wind conditions and the distance between balloons. The winter festival’s regular hot air balloon glow shows usually feature only 25 balloons.

Winter at Tantora runs until March 7, and features top-class entertainment, cultural, arts and sporting events, including concerts at the mirrored Maraya concert hall and the Fursan horse endurance race on Feb. 1. For details and booking information visit www.book.experiencealula.com.

The rebirth of AlUla
Hegra, ancient city of the Nabataeans in Saudi Arabia’s historic AlUla Valley, is emerging from the mists of time to take its rightful place as one of the wonders of the world

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World leaders call for courage as virus death toll nears 70,000

Updated 06 April 2020

World leaders call for courage as virus death toll nears 70,000

  • Be strong, Pope Francis says
  • US faces ‘Pearl Harbor moment’

JEDDAH: World leaders urged people on Sunday to show courage and strength in fighting the coronavirus pandemic as the global death toll approached 70,000 from more than 1.25 million cases of infection.

Pope Francis described the outbreak as a tragedy, Queen Elizabeth of the UK offered her personal thanks to frontline health workers, and Americans were warned that they faced the “hardest and the saddest week” of their lives.

Saudi Arabia reported five more deaths from the virus, bringing the total to 34. The number of confirmed cases rose by 206 to 2,385, the highest among Gulf Arab states.

The Foreign Ministry will register requests this week from Saudis abroad who want to return home, with priority given to the elderly, pregnant women and people in countries most affected by the pandemic. Those who return are subject to a 14-day quarantine, and about 11,000 hotel rooms have been set aside for them.

The Health Ministry warned that too many people were ignoring advice to stay at home. “Unfortunately, there is still more than 40 percent mobility in shopping and outdoor activities. This is a very alarming percentage,”ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly said.

“We are all in this boat together, and those who risk their own lives by going out for no urgent need are risking everybody else’s lives too.”

The six Gulf states have reported 6,757 cases of infection and 54 deaths from the coronavirus. The UAE, where 1,505 people have been infected and 10 have died, will increase its stockpile of strategic goods and waive residency visa fines for the rest of the year, said the prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

In Rome, on Palm Sunday, a Christian religious festival, Pope Francis celebrated mass by live stream with St.Peter’s Square empty of the usual huge crowds.

“Today, in the tragedy of a pandemic, in the face of the many false securities that have now crumbled, in the face of so many hopes betrayed, in the sense of abandonment that weighs upon our hearts, Jesus says to each one of us: ‘Courage, open your heart to my love’,” he said.

Queen Elizabeth gave a rare special address to the British people, only the fourth in her 68-year reign. She praised frontline health workers and more than 750,000 people who volunteered to help the state-run National Health Service.

“I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge, and those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any,” she said.

In the US, as the death toll approached 10,000, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said: “This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives … our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment.”