ALULA, Saudi Arabia: Yoga, motivational discussions, farm-to-table dishes, and a community of wellness adherents are all on offer at the untouched historic oasis of AlUla, which the area’s royal commission has organized from March 17 to 27.
“We have visitors literally from around the globe. We have people from South Africa, from the United States, Europe, as well as Asia. So we have most of the world covered in terms of the practitioners and the participants who are providing their services,” Philip Jones, Royal Commission AlUla’s chief destination marketing officer, told Arab News.
The 10-day Five Senses Sanctuary is one of the headline events of the festival. The sanctuary is located in AlUla’s summer farms and provides visitors with a secluded atmosphere for relaxation and renewal.
It offers a full range of holistic classes, including guided yoga, meditation workshops, discussions, and mindful practices.
“Over 300 different activities will take place over the course of 10 days with 40 different instructors, including the top male and female yogi(s) in the world,” Jones explained.
Some of the well-known names in the world of wellness, meditation, and yoga who took part in the event so far include Manish Pole, Chelsea Kauai, Dylan Werner, and Manal Rostom.
The group discussions kicked off with guest speaker Rostom, an Egyptian athlete who uses her platform and voice to initiate change for women in Muslim communities.
The talk was then followed by a series of yoga and meditation classes hosted by Pole, Kino MacGregor, and Nicholas Coolridge.
The sanctuary is filled with classes for attendees to try regardless of their level in yoga. It also offers massages from therapists specializing in different practices worldwide. Each evening comes to a close with live music by artists Dan Moores and Bruno Fave.
The untouched natural landscapes and peaceful oasis of AlUla provides the perfect setting for a relaxing escape.
Jones said that AlUla was a “stunning setting” that made it ideal for the events on offer. “You get the mountains and the oasis,” Jones said.
“It’s the largest wellness event and spa in the Gulf region and something that we hope will become an annual event for AlUla in the future,” Jones explained.
Although the Five Senses Sanctuary is only temporary, AlUla considers this a test run and hopes to make it a permanent feature in this area with its rich history.
“There’s such an interest in wellness today. It’s one of the fastest-growing segments of the tourism industry growing at about 12 percent per year.”
“We are using activations like this as a test case to see how it would fit in permanently. As an activation for (the) AlUla destination year-round,” he said.
The festival also features the Eco-Trail that runs through some of the city’s major landmarks, including Maraya, Elephant Rock, and Hegra.
“The trail goes all around AlUla, it’s a great way to discover the city. The race starts from Saharay AlUla Resort then moves to Elephant Rock and goes through different areas to finish in Hegra,” Jean-Charles Perrin, founder of Eco-Trail, told Arab News.
AlUla is currently the only location in the Middle East with an Eco-Trail event. It began in Paris and allows participants to enjoy nature with members of their community.
“We grew the number of participants this year, and they are mostly Saudi now, which is the plan, to give the opportunity to people living here or in the vicinity to have their own trail running,” he said.
The Eco-Trail welcomed visitors from across the world, based and working in AlUla, and tourists who wanted to experience major landmarks through a fun run.
“It provides an opportunity for people to be a part of an outdoor experience … to practice sports without the pressure of performance,” the founder said.
The trail offers an 80-kilometer ultramarathon, 50-kilometer marathon, 25-kilometer half-marathon, 10-kilometer fun run, and a 1.2-kilometer race for children.
“It’s amazing seeing the people that are reacting to the joy and happiness, especially their kids, when you see their parents supporting them. That’s something that we want to do … is make people happy running in nature,” he said.
“This is the opportunity that we have thanks to the RCU to invite people to be at the finish line in Hegra, which is the UNESCO site. It’s like running in a museum, it’s amazing,” he said.
Other activities for visitors, including the AlfaOne Retreat, Sadu Escape, and the Thuraya Wellness Center at Habitas will continue throughout March.