JEDDAH: Mention the name AlUla and the remains of ancient civilizations spring to the mind of most visitors.
However, the town also has other historic roots, being home to some of the oldest plants in the Kingdom including palms and citrus fruits, barni and helwa palm trees, sweet lemons, limes (also known as Bin Zuhair lemons), and moringa trees.
Hamed Al-Shuwaikan, owner of AlUla Fresh Farm where many of the plants are grown, told Arab News: “The oranges in AlUla mainly came from Haifa and Yafa in Palestine and have been growing in AlUla for over 50 years.”
Sweet lemons were distributed to Madinah, Makkah, and Jeddah more than 70 years ago, he said. “Before the founding of the Kingdom and the existence of imports, it was the main crop as a fruit tree.
“It is the oldest fruit in AlUla and is very sweet. It can only be found in AlUla, Jouf, and sometimes in Yanbu Al-Nakhal because it was planted near springs,” he added.
Another plant in the area is the henna tree. It is distinguished for its beautiful flowers and scent and its leaves are cut and ground to produce the dye henna.
AlUla Fresh Farm was the driving force behind the AlUla Green Initiative, which aims to distribute seeds and encourage the growing of trees in line with the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan to combat desertification.
“Visitors plant seeds in the farm and write their names on craft sticks which are placed where their plants are. We care for and water the plants and it is a beautiful memory for visitors,” said Al-Shuwaikan.
“Students are also received here at the farm so we can raise awareness of the importance of vegetation.”
His daughter Ula — named after the town — manages the farm and wants to educate visitors on the diversity of the plants that came from different parts of the world.
“What we want the world to see is that AlUla’s environment is fertile and attractive in all environments — farms, deserts, and mountainous areas,” she told Arab News.
“We want to show them the plants we brought from abroad and that seedlings from outside Asia, such as African and Egyptian mangos, and American guava, can be planted successfully in AlUla despite the difference in soil, weather, and water.”
She said plants could be grown cost-effectively. “We want to show visitors that AlUla is agriculturally rich, and that we do not need any more types of resources. We can grow our plants with the least expense.”
The attraction allows visitors to experience firsthand life on a farm, including picking fruit and eating it fresh, to planting their own crops. A creativity hub also explains how to plant dates and preserve them and make traditional baskets and hand fans from palm tree leaves.