AlUla heritage sites reopen to public Oct. 31

Flights are available to AlUla from Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 16 October 2020

AlUla heritage sites reopen to public Oct. 31

ALULA: The historical and cultural open-air museum of AlUla in northwest Saudi Arabia will reopen its heritage sites to tourists on Oct. 31.
The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) has confirmed that the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra, the ancient kingdom of Dadan and the whispering canyons of Jabal Ikmah will be the first sites to reopen to the public, largely having been closed to visitors for more than two years.
RCU has announced that residents of AlUla will have the chance to access the sites exclusively on Oct. 30 for free on a first-come, first-served basis for the entire opening weekend. Visitors can sign up to experiencealula.com to find out about the bookings available for the heritage sites and when other experiences are live.
Visitors will enjoy significant airport enhancements, new comfortable transport options around town and the heritage sites, and information provision at two new visitor centers.
AlUla’s new quality assurance program will also ensure that visitors receive a warm and professional welcome.
Safety measures for the coronavirus pandemic have been put in place in adherence to Ministry of Health protocols, which align with the “safe travels” guidelines published by the World Travel and Tourism Council.
The measures include mandatory pre-booking of tickets, temperature checks at the airport, distancing and limitations of visitors at heritage and other sites, increased sanitation measures and mandatory mask-wearing.
Phillip Jones, RCU’s chief destination management and marketing officer, said that he was delighted that the sites were reopening in October.
“There is no doubt it’s been a challenging year for all industries but our teams have worked hard to deliver this important stage in our tourism journey, and in the next chapter of AlUla’s journey through time,” Jones said.
Activations and immersive experiences at the heritage sites, as well as adventure experiences and events, will be announced over the coming weeks and will be phased in over the winter months, with the full suite of experiences planned for the winter season expected by the first quarter of 2021.
AlUla Old Town will also be open as a visitor experience to the public for the first time from December.
“We are developing engaging, authentic, light-touch tourism experiences that hero the essence of AlUla — our heritage sites, natural assets and of course the AlUla community,” Jones said.
He added: “We have a full team onsite to get the destination ready to welcome those first visitors and we’re excited to give the local community a chance to revisit their heritage sites before the rest of the world, while we continue to build on the experiences.”
“Through our team of travel industry professionals, we are setting up the foundations for a fully integrated booking and travel distribution system to make visiting AlUla an easy, value-driven and seamless experience, and to get international-ready for when visit visas are reinstated,” Jones said.
Flights are available with Saudia airlines to AlUla from Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.
AlUla is a 10-hour drive from Riyadh, a seven-hour drive from Jeddah, and is just over three hours from Madinah and Tabuk airports. It is a two-and-a-half-hour drive to the Red Sea, which visitors can add on to their trip.


Shara Art Fair brings together Saudi artists

Updated 25 November 2020

Shara Art Fair brings together Saudi artists

  • With the global pandemic closing art galleries and canceling live events, artists took a hit like many other workers

JEDDAH: The Saudi Art Council brought together a wide range of local artists after the months-long lockdown for the 6th Shara Art Fair, which was recently launched in Jeddah at the council’s headquarters.

With the global pandemic closing art galleries and canceling live events, artists took a hit like many other workers. The Shara Art Fair, however, allowed artists from all across the country to exhibit their talents in seven art galleries.

The participating galleries included Athr Gallery, Hafez Gallery, 6th Sense Art, Noor Gallery, Tasami Creative Lab, BHAC, and Visual Stations.

Heba Abed, a visual artist and painter, said that her life during the pandemic was a combination of “watching TV, eating, and painting.”

Inspired by her surroundings, Abed’s artwork was a collection of one hundred paintings that exhibit the emotions she felt during the hundred days of quarantine.

“Some of the paintings express the feelings I had while in quarantine, while others are inspired by fairy tales because there was a lot of time for our minds to wander while we were stuck at home,” she told Arab News. 

Heba Abed

She added: “I would sometimes paint more than one painting a day during the lockdown. While we were all bored, I decided to practice the thing I loved most. I found inspiration in my life, in society and in everything that happened around me.”

Artist Elham Dawsari, on the other hand, used the 1990s as inspiration for her artwork, “Nefa,” which means a spacious place with few to no walls. The installation, featuring clay women set over acrylic boxes with mirrors inside, is meant to symbolize the women’s untold stories.

“The idea behind the piece was to represent the lives of the women in the 90s,” she said.

Cutouts hang from the ceiling of the gallery around the art, which according to Dawsari, symbolize the urban landscaping at the time and the style of the houses.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Shara Art Fair allowed artists from all across the country to exhibit their talents in seven art galleries.

• The participating galleries included Athr Gallery, Hafez Gallery, 6th Sense Art, Noor Gallery, Tasami Creative Lab, BHAC, and Visual Stations.

“They also show how those designs imposed themselves on our lives,” she said. “They show certain aspects of society and how we behaved and how our bodies looked because of the limited space we had to walk around in; they were fuller but also more muscular because of all the hard work the women used to do.”

The clay figures of the women are based on Dawsari’s memory and the collective memory of her family.

Another piece featured large wooden dolls perched on a table. As time passed, the artist painted more dolls. The founder of Dar Malak, Malak Masallati, was the designer and director of the project and expressed the hope that her wooden dolls would become the next “Saudi Wooden Dolls.”

“I wanted to create wooden dolls that represent our country and its culture and that could become an icon. I called the project ‘Nasana’,” she told Arab News.

Dar Malak worked with designers and artisans to translate the idea of Masallati into actual objects.

Masallati worked with a wood factory that handled the woodturning and scaling for her.

“I did my research on the proportions of the human body, using examples of different bodies to create the variety you see here,” she added.