The Journey Through Time: A master plan for preserving and sustainably developing Saudi Arabia’s ancient AlUla

A panoramic view of the Dadan District. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, chairman of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), unveiled The Journey Through Time - the latest plan for the region. (Supplied)
1 / 6
A panoramic view of the Dadan District. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, chairman of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), unveiled The Journey Through Time - the latest plan for the region. (Supplied)
AlUla Old Town district - the Perspectives Galleries. (Supplied)
2 / 6
AlUla Old Town district - the Perspectives Galleries. (Supplied)
The Nabataean Theatre in the Nabataean District. (Supplied)
3 / 6
The Nabataean Theatre in the Nabataean District. (Supplied)
The viewing deck in the Jabal Ikmah District. (Supplied)
4 / 6
The viewing deck in the Jabal Ikmah District. (Supplied)
The Kingdoms Institute in the Dadan District. (Supplied)
5 / 6
The Kingdoms Institute in the Dadan District. (Supplied)
The Interpretive Center in the Jabal Ikmah District. (Supplied)
6 / 6
The Interpretive Center in the Jabal Ikmah District. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 08 April 2021

The Journey Through Time: A master plan for preserving and sustainably developing Saudi Arabia’s ancient AlUla

A panoramic view of the Dadan District. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, chairman of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), unveiled The Journey Through Time - the latest plan for the region. (Supplied)
  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says The Journey Through Time will “advance our understanding of 200,000 years of heritage”
  • The RCU expects AlUla, once completed, to attract two million visitors every year and create 38,000 new local jobs by 2035

LONDON: Until now few have been privileged to visit the ancient city of Hegra, hewn from the rocks of the Hijaz in northwestern Saudi Arabia over two millennia ago and lost for centuries in the mists of time.

Like its famous twin Petra, some 460 km north in modern-day Jordan, Hegra was created by the Nabataeans, a mysterious people whose Arabian empire of trade flared briefly but brightly more than 2,000 years ago.

But now, as Saudi Arabia increasingly opens its doors to the outside world, the Kingdom is poised to share with that world one of the great forgotten treasures of antiquity.




Nabataean tombs in AlUla. (Supplied)

After more than a decade of one of the most intensive archaeological investigations ever undertaken, Hegra is to be the jewel in the crown of a plan to transform the dramatic landscape and heritage of the AlUla region into a natural and cultural oasis that will once again see visitors from around the world drawn to this important ancient crossroads.

On Wednesday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, chairman of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), unveiled The Journey Through Time, the latest development rooted in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 blueprint for the nation’s future.

Today, we embark on a journey to preserve the world’s largest cultural oasis and advance our understanding of 200,000 years of heritage. The Journey Through Time master plan is a leap forward to sustainably and responsibly develop AlUla, and share our cultural legacy with the world.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Over the next 15 years, AlUla valley, home to Hegra and a multitude of other historical sites, will be transformed into a living museum designed to immerse visitors in 200,000 years of natural and human history.

The Journey Through Time master plan was developed under the leadership of the crown prince and the guidance of Prince Badr, the Saudi minister of culture and governor of the RCU. Amr Al-Madani, CEO of the RCU, told Arab News the master plan has been envisioned “as a way to capture the deep-rooted essence of what AlUla already is — an oasis of unique culture, heritage, nature and community — while curating a timeless legacy with stories of the past to inform the future and open new chapters in AlUla’s unfolding history.”




The Journey Through Time master plan was developed under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) and the guidance of Prince Badr (L), the Saudi minister of culture and governor of the RCU. (AN Photo Ziyad Alarfaj/AFP/File Photos)

Five districts, each focused on a particular heritage site and strung out along the spectacular AlUla valley, will together tell the story of the past two millennia.

The districts will be connected by a 20 km Wadi of Hospitality, a “green pedestrian spine” which, together with a 46 km low-carbon tramline that will connect the five sites to AlUla International Airport, will follow part of the route used for centuries by pilgrims and, in the early part of the 20th century, by the historic Hijaz Railway.

A network of trails snaking through the green valley will also allow visitors to explore on foot, or by bicycle or horse.




The Nabataean District - Hegra Museum. (Supplied)

The Journey Through Time begins in the south of the valley at the Old Town district, the site of an abandoned mudbrick settlement 17 km south of Hegra. The Old Town was occupied until the 1980s, when the occupants abandoned it for the comforts of the newly built modern-day AlUla, a few kilometers to the south. Today it is an intriguing and haunting labyrinthine ghost town.

From AlUla Old Town, visitors will journey north toward District 2, site of the ancient city of Dadan, a predecessor to Hegra. Between 600 and 200 B.C. it flourished as the capital of the mysterious Dadanite and Lihyanite kingdoms, whose fortunes rested on their control of the incense trade routes that passed through the valley.

 

District 3, Jabal Ikmah, an “open-air library” of petroglyphs, will give visitors a first glimpse of the thousands of ancient rock-art sites and inscriptions to be found throughout the valley and beyond.

The next stop on the Journey Through Time will be District 4, The Nabataean Horizon, a cluster of cultural assets mirroring Nabataean architecture and the perfect curtain-raiser for the last and most spectacular of the five districts: The ancient city of Hegra, which in 2007 became Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site.




The AlUla low carbon experiential trams. (Supplied)

Hegra is situated on a large plain southeast of the Hijaz Mountains, studded with hills of sandstone, isolated or grouped together to form massifs that have been dramatically sculpted by the northwesterly winds that have blown through the region every spring and early summer since the dawn of time.

The winds have also created strange and evocative shapes, such as the three-storey rock 10 km northeast of the modern town of AlUla, sculpted over millions of years to resemble an elephant.

In the center of the site, once served by the 130 wells driven into the rock that made possible the sprawling oasis that supported the ancient city, is the former residential area. Although very little remains above the surface of buildings that were made in antiquity largely from mud bricks, geophysical surveys have revealed tantalizing evidence of underground structures, while parts of the city wall can still be seen with the naked eye.

But without doubt the stars of Hegra are the necropolises that surround the residential area — cities of the dead, featuring more than 90 monumental tombs carved out of the rocks surrounding and overlooking the former city of the living, and dating from about 1 B.C. to A.D. 75.




The stars of Hegra are the necropolises that surround the residential area — cities of the dead, featuring more than 90 monumental tombs. (Supplied)

Of the four main necropolises, Qasr Al-Bint, home to 31 tombs dated from the year nought to A.D. 58, is the most visually dramatic — both from a distance and up close. The exterior facades of many of the tombs here feature carved monsters, eagles, other small sculpted animals and human faces.

As at Petra, which was also created by the Nabataeans, many of the tombs at Hegra feature spectacular carved facades. However, unlike at Petra, many of the facades also carry dated Nabataean inscriptions, in many cases naming the dead and offering unique insights into the lives of the people who once called Hegra home.

The master plan envisages 15 “cultural assets” that will act as landmarks throughout the five districts. These will include galleries, museums, an oasis living garden and, in a salute to AlUla’s role as a crossroads of ancient trade routes, an incense road market.

Education and the acquisition of knowledge will play a key part in the development. In addition to research centers focused on the ancient sites of Dadan and Jabal Ikmah, a flagship component of the plan is The Kingdoms Institute, a global hub for archaeological knowledge and research dedicated to the cultures and civilizations that have inhabited the area for more than 7,000 years.

An ongoing archaeological survey of the entire 22,000 sq km AlUla region has already identified over 23,000 sites of archaeological interest.

Another key part of the development will be the revival of the Cultural Oasis at the heart of the AlUla valley.

“Through research and innovative solutions from water management to irrigation and land use, the replenishment of the cultural oasis will be a key element of the Journey Through Time master plan,” Al-Madani told Arab News.

“The most intense regeneration efforts will focus on the 9 km heart of the ancient oasis — the ‘green lung’ of AlUla connecting Old Town, Dadan, and Jabal Ikmah — and will trigger a major expansion of AlUla’s green and open spaces.”




AlUla - ‘The Cultural Oasis.’ (Supplied)

With the revival of up to 10 million square meters planned, as “a direct response to the challenges of sustainably and responsibly developing a fragile desert environment,” the Journey Through Time master plan will be the world’s largest cultural oasis regeneration project, creating an enchanting haven for visitors and a unique opportunity for sustainable agricultural production.

In addition, 80 percent of AlUla county will be designated as nature reserves, with key flora and fauna to be reintroduced.

Once complete, the RCU expects AlUla to attract two million visitors every year, boosting its goal of contributing SR 120 billion ($32 billion) to the national GDP and creating 38,000 new jobs in the area by 2035.

With a total of 5,000 “hospitality keys” planned as part of an overall target of 9,400 by 2035, many of those jobs will be in tourism and hospitality.

In each of the five districts visitors will be able to choose from a “tailored blend of living and hospitality options,” ranging from hotels and eco-tourism resorts to luxury lodges and “canyon farms” — carved out of the sandstone rocks that once tempted the Nabataeans to settle here.

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

Enter


keywords

 


Saudi Arabia announces 5 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 5 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 19 September 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 5 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 5 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 535,531
  • A total of 8,661 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced five deaths from COVID-19 and 70 new infections on Sunday.

Of the new cases, 21 were recorded in Riyadh, 19 in Makkah, seven in the Eastern Province, six in Madinah, three in Asir, three in Najran, two in Jazan, one in Tabuk,  one in Al-Jouf, one in Hail, and one in Al-Baha.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 535,531 after 81 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,661 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Over 40.6 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Coronavirus booster dose ‘unnecessary,’ say Saudi experts

More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 19 September 2021

Coronavirus booster dose ‘unnecessary,’ say Saudi experts

More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
  • New recoveries reported amounted to 77, raising the total number to 535,450

JEDDAH: A third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is unnecessary, according to Saudi health experts.

“If the two doses of the vaccine prevent severe illness/staying in hospital/death, it does not make sense for the general population to receive a third dose,” said deputy health minister for preventive health, Dr. Abdullah Assiri.

Assiri, who is also an infectious diseases consultant, added: “At this stage of excellent vaccination coverage, we need to reconsider the rationale and method of laboratory testing for COVID-19, and judge the pandemic only from the perspective of the burden of disease on society.”

The comments came after news of proposed booster shots of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for the general public, and third jabs for people aged 65 and older and other vulnerable groups.


Meanwhile, infectious disease expert, Ahmed Al-Hakawi, said that accelerating demand for approval of a third (booster) dose for everyone was not supported by a study he cited.

FASTFACT

546k

The total number of coronavirus cases in KSA reached 546,479.

Titled “Safety and Efficacy of the BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine through 6 Months,” the study, published on Sept. 15, was conducted on more than 45,000 participants in 152 sites in six countries.

The study concluded that “through 6 months of follow-up and despite a gradual decline in vaccine efficacy, BNT162b2 had a favorable safety profile and was highly efficacious in preventing COVID-19.”

“The vaccine still provides protection against severe disease even six months after the second dose,” said Al-Hakawi, who is also a hospital epidemiologist in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia recorded 68 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 546,479, the Ministry of Health said.

Of Saturday’s cases, 20 were in Makkah, 17 in the Riyadh region and seven in the Eastern Province. Hail and Najran were the regions with the lowest case count, posting just one each.

New recoveries reported amounted to 77, raising the total number to 535,450.

With the high recovery rate, the number of active cases has declined to 2,373, of which 361 are in critical care.

Five people have died in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of deaths to 8,656.

More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom at the rate of 201,505 a day.

At this rate, Saudi Arabia could have 70 percent of its population fully vaccinated by Oct. 31.

The Ministry of Health said that 587 centers across all regions of the Kingdom processed the inoculations. Those who have not yet received a vaccine were urged to get one.

The ministry renewed its call for citizens and residents to adhere to precautionary measures and to register with the Sehhaty app to receive vaccines.

Meanwhile, testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have helped millions of people since the pandemic outbreak.

Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual.

Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.

Appointments for both services can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.


Saudi chef to kings reveals latest recipes for culinary success

As well as developing Arab recipes for Saudi dairy products, Tawfiq Qadri has cooked up more than 3,000 different hot, cold, and pastry meals. (Supplied)
As well as developing Arab recipes for Saudi dairy products, Tawfiq Qadri has cooked up more than 3,000 different hot, cold, and pastry meals. (Supplied)
Updated 19 September 2021

Saudi chef to kings reveals latest recipes for culinary success

As well as developing Arab recipes for Saudi dairy products, Tawfiq Qadri has cooked up more than 3,000 different hot, cold, and pastry meals. (Supplied)
  • 58-year-old Tawfiq Qadri still oozes the same enthusiasm for food preparation as he did as child

MAKKAH: A top Saudi cook hailed as the chef to kings is set to pass on more of his culinary skills and recipes with the release of a new book.

Tawfiq Qadri, who has worked in palace kitchens for a succession of monarchs, is due to finish his third cookbook, “On the Table of the Caliph.”
And the 58-year-old still oozes the same enthusiasm for food preparation as he did as child.
“It all started when I was seven years old. I was fascinated with the sight of my mother in the kitchen, and I used to help in cutting carrots and cucumbers and cleaning rice. I was the only one of 16 brothers and sisters to help her at our home in Madinah,” he told Arab News.
“I joined the scouts during intermediate and high school and was the chef of my classmates at the time. I became famous for cooking the popular Hijazi dishes, which the scouts enjoyed despite my lack of experience.”
After moving to Italy to train as a chef, Qadri’s career took off as he later made a name for himself catering for royals, presidents, and celebrities.
But his rise to fame in the cuisine arts did not get off to a smooth start.
After graduating from high school in Madinah, he got a job at the Saudi Central Bank, an experience which left a bad taste in his mouth. Working in a small office, Qadri felt trapped in an environment he said killed his creative passion to cook.

At the age of 19, just six months into his job, he quit the bank without telling his family and went to stay at his uncle’s hotel. With the help of his relative, and with his parents’ blessing, Qadri enrolled in a bachelor’s degree course at an Italian institute in Sicily, spending two-and-a-half years there as the only Arab student.

BACKGROUND

• After graduating from high school in Madinah, he got a job at the Saudi Central Bank, an experience which left a bad taste in his mouth. Working in a small office, Qadri felt trapped in an environment he said killed his creative passion to cook.

• At the age of 19, just six months into his job, he quit the bank without telling his family and went to stay at his uncle’s hotel. With the help of his relative, and with his parents’ blessing, Qadri enrolled in a bachelor’s degree course at an Italian institute in Sicily, spending two-and-a-half years there as the only Arab student. He also gained a master’s degree and Ph.D. in the US based on his thesis on managing kitchens and tourist facilities.

On returning home, in 1981 he took up employment with the Royal Saudi Navy, based in Riyadh. There, he was head chef and supervisor of the navy officers’ club and would often fly to Toulon in France to join a ship that regularly sailed to Saudi Arabia, working on board as a chef. After four years in the navy, during which time he rose to the rank of sergeant, he moved into military supply management, eventually heading the operation, and organizing budgets for the whole of the Kingdom.
When the Gulf crisis started in 1990, he was commissioned to join the Ministry of Defense and became the chef of the Allied Forces, earning the rank of chief sergeant.
After taking early retirement from the navy, Qadri spent six years with Saudia airline’s catering division, developing a range of dishes, before advising international hotels on food provision and judging in many culinary competitions throughout the Arab world.
While working with Saudia airline, Qadri was featured in a Saudi newspaper article under the headline, “Passengers Love him Before Seeing Him.” On the back of the publicity, he was given responsibility for Hijazi cooking at the palace of the late King Fahd and went on to work for the late King Abdullah, and now King Salman, notably preparing the kitchen during the visit of former US President Barack Obama.
He also gained a master’s degree and Ph.D. in the US based on his thesis on managing kitchens and tourist facilities. As well as developing Arab recipes for Saudi dairy products, Qadri has cooked up more than 3,000 different hot, cold, and pastry meals, and created 42 new recipes. He is also the author of books “Saudi and the Star of the Table,” and “Guide of the Quick Cooking,” with “On the Table of the Caliph” due to be completed soon.


Saudi commerce ministry outlines app for validating discounts

A woman shops for snacks at a supermarket in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh. (AFP file photo)
A woman shops for snacks at a supermarket in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh. (AFP file photo)
Updated 19 September 2021

Saudi commerce ministry outlines app for validating discounts

A woman shops for snacks at a supermarket in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh. (AFP file photo)
  • Establishments need license to offer promotional sales

RIYADH: The Ministry of Commerce has reaffirmed the mechanisms for validating seasonal offers and discounts, outlining its digital solution to the major consumer challenge.

Ministry spokesman Abdulrahman bin Mohammed Al-Hussein said that stores need a license to offer discounts and must display it clearly for the consumer.
Other requirements set by the ministry include identifying the discount percentage and the price of the product before and after the reduction. The ministry also monitors prices to ensure that there is no fraud or misleading advertising.
To check offers and discounts, customers can scan the discount barcode on the “Sales” application, he added.
The spokesperson urged consumers to ensure the reliability of the online store through the ministry website or the “Maroof” platform, so that they are not subject to fraud.

Fahd Al-Bogami

“The method of checking the discounts has high reliability, it is no longer a matter of stickers that can be replaced in one way or another. The cuts have become more and more credible than before,” Hajar, a student at Princess Nourah University, told Arab News.
She added that the “Sales” application gives the customer a wide range of options, and all age groups can use it with ease.
Mohammed Mubarak, a former employee of Saudi Aramco, said he was suspicious of discounts offered by some stores, while confirming that he has never used the “Sales” application.

HIGHLIGHT

To check offers and discounts, customers can scan the discount barcode on the ‘Sales’ application. The ministry also monitors prices to ensure that there is no fraud or misleading advertising.

“I was surprised by some unreasonable discounts in many stores,” he told Arab News.
Fahd Al-Bogami, a member of the e-commerce committee in the Riyadh Chamber, stressed the importance of educating consumers about real discounts.
“In order to be sure as a consumer, you have to enter the discount platform and check whether the discount is authorized,” he told Arab News. “It is important to realize that the Ministry of Commerce penalizes any party that places discounts without obtaining the permission to do so.”
Al-Bogami noted the growing adoption of digital technology by service providers, adding that many people can complete their transactions on their phones.
“This is wonderful. This is not only in the commercial sector, but in education, medicine and others,” he said.
“This gives greater opportunities for entrepreneurs on and the consumer to benefit from each other. Challenges are being overcome through digital solutions.”

Decoder

MAROOF

It is an e-platform launched by Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Commerce to enable registered online sellers to easily reach large groups of customers. It also gives online shoppers a visualization of the quality of services provided by e-stores, and allows customer evaluation of an e-store or its products.


New Saudi supercar club ‘DRB 1921’ offers bespoke experiences

The club is set to offer outstanding experiences that are tailored to accommodate those who appreciate state-of-the-art technology and a thrilling ride. (Supplied)
The club is set to offer outstanding experiences that are tailored to accommodate those who appreciate state-of-the-art technology and a thrilling ride. (Supplied)
Updated 18 September 2021

New Saudi supercar club ‘DRB 1921’ offers bespoke experiences

The club is set to offer outstanding experiences that are tailored to accommodate those who appreciate state-of-the-art technology and a thrilling ride. (Supplied)
  • DRB 1921, the supercar club for exotic car owners in Saudi Arabia, also celebrates 100 years of motor cars in the Kingdom
  • The inaugural event will take place in the north of Riyadh on Sept. 30, where members will participate in the ‘320 km Speed Challenge’

JEDDAH: Continuing to grow its portfolio of unique experiences in Saudi Arabia, Extreme Events has announced the opening of a supercar members’ club, DRB 1921.

The club creates bespoke events and tours at some of the most iconic destinations around the globe, including internationally recognized race circuits such as Silverstone International Circuit in the UK.

“Combining thrilling driving events with luxurious hospitality, world-class curation, attention to detail and customer care will bring members back time and time again,” a statement said.

To celebrate Saudi Arabia’s passion for high performance cars, DRB 1921’s name is inspired by an Arabic meaning of route (DRB) and a celebratory date when historians noted the first motor vehicles arrived in the Kingdom, spawning the nation’s love for cars.

Moreover, this year marks 100 years of motor cars in the Kingdom. With such richness and passion for motoring, DRB 1921 is set to offer outstanding experiences that are tailored to accommodate those who appreciate state-of-the-art technology and a thrilling ride.

Each event is carefully tailored to ensure it meets every member’s expectation and creates the most memorable moments.

With every supercar having its own unique nuances and the average top speed of over 420 km an hour, DRB 1921 provides remarkable experiences in a controlled environment with expert supervision, letting everyone test their driving limits and truly tapping each car’s potential.

Whether it is a scenic drive in the most beautiful and uncharted locations in Saudi Arabia or an exciting speed challenge at an internationally recognized race circuit, DRB 1921 guarantees car owners the driving experience of a lifetime.

HIGHLIGHT

DRB 1921’s name is inspired by an Arabic meaning of route (DRB) and a celebratory date when historians noted the first motor vehicles arrived in the Kingdom, spawning the nation’s love for cars.

Each journey is complemented by the pinnacle of luxury hospitality and exquisite gastronomy, where a like-minded community of supercar owners come together.

DRB 1921 partners with a selection of the world’s top suppliers such as CARS Middle East (Classic Automotive Relocation Services) to ensure the very best assistance and concierge to look after members’ luxury cars, as well as a personal brokerage service that is exceptionally discreet, affording each client complete anonymity.

For those who are ready to master the maximum top speed in these high velocity road vehicles, DRB 1921 is organizing its inaugural event “320km Speed Challenge” on Sept. 30.

The event exclusively takes place on a private non-commercial runway owned by the Saudi Aviation Club, located in Al-Thumama, in the north of Riyadh.

Measuring 4.5 km in length, this vast runway has previously been identified by NASA as one of the few landing destinations across the globe for aborted space shuttle missions.

On this day, supercar owners have an opportunity to join a passionate community for an exhilarating driving experience and an incredible day out.

“Extreme Events is very proud to launch DRB 1921 in Saudi Arabia because it opens the opportunity for supercar owners to test their skills and unlock real potential of their cars in a safe environment,” said James Cooke-Priest, managing director at Extreme Events.

He added: “The concept also encourages a niche community to come together and share different experiences of driving exceptionally advanced supercars. I see DRB 1921 beyond just a private club, I see it becoming a community hub for like-minded car enthusiasts in the Kingdom.”